August 2011 archive

Look! Nancy Zieman is doing her best John Hancock imitation!

Nancy takes a moment to autograph a copy of her book Sewing A - Z for this week's blog winner! Read on to discover the lucky winner!

Nancy and I were in St. Louis teaching Baby Lock dealers embroidery and sewing techniques. Baby Lock has introduced some wonderful products that are going to make our stitching so much easier – and creative! Click here ( to see what’s new from Baby Lock.

Twenty-four dealers mastered my Stipple! technique with the Lady Liberty quilt block featured in my book Machine Embroidered Quilting and Applique. What fun they had – learning this out-of-the-box technique and completing four blocks, piecing them with my reversible piecing technique and even binding the four blocks!

The Baby Lock dealers learned how value is more important than color in this traditional quilt block. Some swapped fabrics to achieve their creative vision. All were thrilled with the results of their efforts. The Stipple! process is an amazing journey. You start with a quilt sandwich, layer pieces of fabric in the proper sequence and then take them out of the hoop. At that point, the blocks look rather silly. After a few snips of the scissors, the magic underneath is revealed!

Here are some examples of finished pieces.

Here’s your assignment this week:

Have you tried quilting with your embroidery machine? Let us know if you’ve ventured into this wonderful territory by posting a comment. A comment will be randomly chosen to win a copy of Stipple! Butterflies!

The winner of last week’s assignment answered the question:
Tell us what sewing step has been a challenge for you by posting a comment on my blog. You know, something like mitering corners, zippers, buttonholes, etc.

“I’ve always wanted to sew a perfectly mitered corner.  I’m slowly getting the hang of it, but I need more practice!  Thanks for the give away!”  – Valerie
Congratulations Valerie! You are the very lucky winner of an autographed copy of Nancy Zieman’s new book, Sewing A to Z.

Don’t miss Eileen’s weekly blog!  Subscribe now.  It’s free!

Nancy Zieman has compiled her sewing knowledge from A – Z

Sewing A to Z

How many times have you used the old cliché, “She knows everything — from A to Z”? Well, Nancy Zieman really does know everything about sewing and she’s found a new way to categorize and simplify sewing tasks. You’ll find tons of tips and explanations in Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z – a hard-cover, spiral bound 144-page tome.

In full disclosure, Nancy Zieman taught me how to sew via the PBS television show Sewing with Nancy. Really. I learned to sew from watching Nancy so I’m a huge fan and today I’m blessed to call her a friend. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still ‘awed’ by her method of teaching.

Years ago I struggled with quilt bindings then Nancy taught me how to bind a quilt. You’ll find the same easy steps on page 20. The illustrations are flawless, every step is clearly defined and if you follow them, you’ll have a binding that would pass the highly critical white-glove test. Don’t know about the white glove test? Good for you, carry on and get your binding sewn.

Another one of my favorite sections of the book is Knits. I love to wear knits, I could live in them, oh wait, I already do! Anyway, Nancy’s tips on knits are great reminders of how to select the right knit for the pattern. She reminds us that there’s a stretch guide on the back of patterns and how to use it. Then she explains how to sew the stretchy seams on both a sewing machine and serger. These tips will come in quite handy when I make a jacket from her new McCall’s pattern, 6408.

Nancy then goes on to identify common knit fabrics with names and images. This page is a great example of why Nancy Zieman is such a terrific teacher – it’s her vocabulary. Not that she speaks like a heady Ivy League grad, she knows the actual names of a zillion-types of fabric, notions and gizmos. Unlike me, who would gladly call all sewing tools, gizmos, such as the sharp gizmo, the pointy gizmo or the turning thingy. Oh no, not our Nancy. She’s had the formal training (a degree in Home Economics) and the lifelong search for more sewing knowledge. Thank heavens she’s shared all of that with us. Otherwise, I’d still be calling knits, the ‘stretchy fabrics’.

Moving on through the pages, I was stopped dead in my track when I hit ‘Wrapped Corners’ on page 128. Creating perfect collars has eluded me for years. No longer! Ha! Apparently, I should have been following Nancy’s instructions to sew, grade, press, understitch and then sew again. So that’s how you do it!

Here’s my suggestion, keep Sewing A to Z with your pattern stash. When you’re creating a garment, refer to Sewing A to Z for easier, more successful techniques than you’ll find in any pattern. You might just fall in love with garment sewing all over again.

I have my copy and I just ordered two more for my twenty-something nieces (who will be eternally grateful in the future as soon as they wise up), now get yours.

Here’s your assignment this week:

Tell us what sewing step has been a challenge for you by posting a comment on my blog. You know, something like mitering corners, zippers, buttonholes, etc. You’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Sewing A to Z because I am personally going to hand carry a copy to my meeting with Nancy on Monday and get her to sign it for you!

Bonus week of prizes!

Nancy Zieman has kindly put together a grand prize package of various materials, from books to templates, pin cushions and piping, for one lucky reader (worth $450). For a chance to win, leave a comment on Nancy’s blog post (August 16th), and a winner will be chosen at the end of the tour. The winner will be posted on Nancy’s blog on September 10th.

More fun! Nancy Zieman’s First Blog Tour

To showcase Nancy Zieman’s new book and companion TV series, you’ll be able to take a tour through the book via a Blog Tour. I am one of 19 bloggers discussing Nancy’s new book through September 9th. I encourage you to follow along and participate in the Book Tour. Check the schedule below to follow along!

The winner of last week’s assignment answered the question: If you could travel anywhere for a hands-on embroidery retreat, where would you go?

“On a weeklong cruise to nowhere! Just time to stitch, without having to cook, clean house, or make my bed! I really enjoyed our Stitching Sisters cruise to Mexico! I just wish for more days to stitch!” – Lucy Anderson

Congrats to Lucy Anderson! You are the lucky winner of the Perfect Placement Kit!

Don’t miss Eileen’s weekly blog!  Subscribe now.  It’s free!

Join the Stitching Sisters at an upcoming Hooping Clinic!

It’s been a great week and we’re planning a fabulous Fall!

On the set of It's Sew Easy

What a week! Last Thursday I traveled to Cleveland to tape the second series of It’s Sew Easy television show. I had a blast connecting with my dear friend June Mellinger, Director of Product Promotion for Brother, meeting other guests and doing my segments. It’s such a hoot to tape television segments because the real work comes weeks before the taping – so much prep! The actual day is really quite enjoyable, that is, if you arrive fully prepared!

Since my Stitching Sister, Marie Zinno, lives just an hour from the television studio, I spent the weekend at her house then both of us flew back to Texas together on Sunday to prepare for the 2011 Fall Stitching Sister Tour. I don’t know how I convinced her that was a good idea because it was 102 degrees when we stepped off the plane at 7:30 PM. Boy does it hit you like wave. Oh well, at least she’s not here to landscape my yard!

My sister Marie Zinno and I are busily planning the Fall 2011 Stitching Sisters Tour

Here’s a sneak peek at what we have planned for our upcoming events. First on the event schedule is our Hooping Clinic. Marie and I hoop over 30 items with adhesive stabilizer and without stabilizer in standard hoops, Magna-Hoops, Snap-Hoop and border hoops. We discuss why you select each hoop and what to do when you don’t have the ideal hoop. Attendees find this information priceless. One recent attendee in Puyallup, WA said, “I could walk out of here after this lecture and feel I got every penny’s worth of admission.”

But we all love to embroiderer and what’s an embroidery event without actual stitching? So Marie and I developed projects that really teach new techniques. Here’s a glimpse of two audience-favorite projects: the Ladybug Pin Cushion and a Designer Neckline t-shirt.

We'll show you techniques for embroidering on felt and knit t-shirts!

Marie and I cover tons of embroidery challenges during our two-day hands-on, team-sewing events: what to do when your fabric pops out of the hoop, stitching on terrycloth, vinyl, sheers, quilting with an embroidery machine, stitching multiples (and getting them to match!) are just a few of the 50 techniques we cover. Attendees use all of Designs in Machine Embroidery products – everything from Magna-Hoop Jumbo to Snap-Hoop to Placement Kits. Attendees learn how to set themselves up for success and navigate on the machine like a pro.

I hope you’ll join us this Fall and Winter – check the schedule, we might be coming to a location near you soon!

Here’s your assignment this week: If you could travel anywhere for a hands-on embroidery retreat, where would you go?  Just post a comment on my blog for your chance to win a Perfect Placement Kit!  (The winner is chosen in a random drawing) Kathy is the lucky winner of a $100 gift certificate from Embroider This!

Post a comment on for a chance to win!

The winner of last week’s assignment answered the question:  What type of projects would you like to see more of?
“Anything you come up with is always great, I do like the idea of embelishing ideas for ready-made clothing. My favorite place to get blanks is garage sales & second=hand stores. I find I get alot of practice without the great expense of retail, especially as I am just starting out, but getting better the more I practise. I do recommend using reference cards for embroidery. Nancy’s Notions carry really good ones, but when I was running out of them, I was able to customize some for myself with all the info I usually need.

I also love all the orgainzational ideas, an organized stitcher is a happy stiticher because we spend less time hunting and more time stitichin!!!”  – Kathy Schmidt

Don’t miss Eileen’s weekly blog.  Subscribe now. It’s free!

7 Cool tips I learned while designing a t-shirt

A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts on a t-shirt revamp project. It’s definitely finished, photographed and worn many times. If you missed the June 22nd post click here. I thought I had a game plan but I think I learned that ‘game plan’ really means a place to start.

My initial plan included these materials:

Original color scheme

The final plan wound up featuring these materials:

I love the look of the delicate shades of pink with the print fabric

Seven cool things I learned along the way:

1. Stabilize the design area only with water soluble adhesive stabilizer when using Snap-Hoop. There’s no need to fill the entire Snap-Hoop frame with pricey stabilizer for this application because the squiggle designs has a very low stitch count.

Conserve stabilizer!

2. Add interest with print fabrics.
3. Two layers of cotton quilting fabric fused together make very pretty flowers.

What a simple way to update a plain tee!

4. The ‘organic’ look of raw edge appliqué gives a fresh, unstructured touch to a casual t-shirt.
5. Incorporating texture makes a simple design more interesting. The mix of stretch mesh fabric squiggles, the burn-out cotton t-shirt and the gentle wash of the soft floral cotton made for a winning combination.
6. Little hot-fix pearls add sheen without sparkle.
7. ‘Outsiders’ (those poor souls who don’t know how to sew/embroider) will never believe you made it. Poor things, they are missing so much and they think we are absolutely brilliant. If they only knew how simple some of this stuff is to create! Well, some of it is challenging but we don’t want to scare them away.
Look for the complete how-to in the September/October 2011 issue of Designs.

Here’s your assignment this week! 
Post a comment telling us what type of projects you’d like to see in the pages of Designs and you could be a winner of a very generous prize from this month’s sponsor:  Embroider This! 

Embroider This! is donating a $100 gift certificate to one lucky winner for use on the retail website: with no restrictions. 

The winner of a $25 shopping spree offered last week is Patty!  Patty posted her comment:
“I love my Brother Ult 2003 (I know it’s old but it does what I need to do right now).  My favorite feature is being able to do free motion at a steady speed by removing the foot pedal.  I dream of larger hoops and multi needles.”

Wow – looks what’s coming your way!

August is always such an exciting time in our industry. It’s when the big reveal on new product occurs. Right now, I’m in warm and muggy Nashville at Brother Back to Business and pretty much in awe of the new toys you are getting to enjoy. If you’ve noticed the trend towards embroidery really transforming into artwork, well have no doubt. The trend has come full circle.

Brother is introducing toys and tools that will make us all Monets, Picassos or at least John Hancocks. Just attach the tablet to the Quattro, draw, trace or write a message and watch the Quattro digitize your artwork or signature right on the screen. Personalize anything in seconds and then save it to use again and again.

If you’re a Laura Ashley fan, you’ll fall in love with the Isodore’s understated elegance. Named for Laura Ashley’s beloved floral pattern, the Limited Edition IsodoreTM Innov-is 5000 is engineered for the discriminating sewer, avid quilter and accomplished embroiderer who wants it all in one state-of-the art machine. The first member of the Laura Ashley family with embroidery capabilities, the Isodore offers premier embroidery, quilting and sewing features all in one beautiful, precise, high-performance machine. But how is it different from other embroidery machines? Start with the 50 built-in embroidery designs designed by the Laura Ashley company.

The designs are breathtaking—full blown flowers, border designs, accent motifs and more. You’ll find tons of uses for these designs – shams, throw pillows, high-end linens, towels, and wearables. Wearables, you say? You betcha! Laura Ashley designs are the perfect addition to a feminine wardrobe. Scatter them across the hem of a skirt, down the front of a jacket or rest one on a sleeve.

And if you’re already a Brother owner, those same gorgeous Laura Ashley designs are available for your machine via With the click of a mouse, you can stitch them this afternoon.

Since I’m writing this post during a classroom break I have to make it short. But trust me; it’s been nothing but entertaining and educational. Over 150 dealers are in attendance and eager to share these new products with you. You’ll see new software (Monogramming – oh wow!), hoops, embroidery designs, precision alignment features on the machines and more. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, it just did!

What embroidery machine features do you fantasize about?  What is your favorite feature on your current machine?  Leave a comment to be entered to win a $25.00 shopping spree at       

Last week we asked you about time saving tips.  The winner of 30 Favorite Embroidery Tips and Techniqueswith Nancy Zieman and Eileen Roche is…Darlene Jacolik!

“I love machine applique and set up my projects ahead of time by cutting all of the fabric I will need for each section and keeping in labeled in plastic zip bags. Eileen, I use most of the tips you mentioned, but have to admit, I have not made a note of any settings I changed. That is really a great tip! Thanks for all of your ideas.”

Congratulations, Darlene!