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Thread Matters

Why Thread Matters

Over the years, I’ve collected quite a bit of thread.  When I first started my sewing journey, I knew nothing about thread and considered it to all be equally delightful.  I was free motion quilting with embroidery thread, piecing my first quilts with really terrible quality cheap thread that was years old, and using heavy weight thread for machine embroidery.  If you’re just beginning your thread journey, you might be discovering that if you don’t use the right thread for the job, your results don’t quite turn out the way you hope.  (And that’s okay!)  But I hope after reading this post, you’ll realize just how much your thread matters.

Why Thread Matters
I’m a little nuts and like my longarm quilting thread organized by color…isn’t it pretty?

Sometimes, what you don’t know can be a great thing, and using threads that aren’t meant for the job you’re doing can have a great end result.  Ignorance can take away fear of trying new things when you just grab what you have and go for it.  I’ll share with you some of my biggest learning experiences as a self-taught beginner sewist…and how much your thread matters.

I bought a bunch of thread from an estate sale (I thought I was getting a great deal!!!).  Nothing wrong with that if it’s being used decoratively, like in a shadow box display.  This was all SUPER old thread–some of the price tags were still on the spools and most of them said 5/$1.00 and .29!  Most thread these days ranges from $6.00-12.00 a spool!  I’m going to wager that most of this thread was 20-30 years old.  Here’s the problem:  Most of this thread was dusty, had been stored in humid conditions, exposed to lots of daylight for long periods of time, etc.  Over time, the fibers in the thread can degrade.  Natural light can sun bleach the thread and weaken the fibers.  Damp conditions can do the same.  This thread, when run through your machine, can be extra linty, break easily, put lots of dust in your machine, and cause some really gross tension problems.  Now that I know about using old thread and the problems it can cause, I’ve gone back and stretched some of the thread out and tried to snap it in my hands.  Most of the thread broke very easily, without me having to exert much force at all.  Using thread that breaks so easily in a quilt is problematic because that means your seams aren’t going to be as strong, and your beautiful quilt won’t have as long of a life as it could if you’d used quality thread.  I still have all this old thread as a reminder to be wary of really cheap sewing supplies!  A lot of times, what you pay for is what you get.

Another thing I used to do a lot was buy super shiny Sulky thread that was meant for embroidery and use it to free motion quilt.  When I was just learning to sew in 2010, I was having all sorts of problems troubleshooting the thread tension on my very inexpensive Singer sewing machine.  Now that I’ve spent hours (probably adding up to weeks) experimenting with different threads, fiber contents, etc, I generally know what will work well for a project and what won’t.  The sewing machine I was using at the time was fickle (as was I!) and I have to say, my sewing would have been much better if I’d stuck with one brand and type and figured out my machine settings with that specific thread.  Here are some tips for troubleshooting thread problems:

Janome MC9400
Janome MC9400
  • Use the best quality machine you can afford
    • Clean it regularly and have a maintenance cleaning done annually.
needle type
Needle Type
  • Use high quality needles, appropriate for the type of sewing you are doing
    • size of the needle should match your project type (smaller needle for finer fabrics and larger needle for heavy weight fabrics
  • Purchase a good quality thread
    • use a thread weight that works well with your project
      • 40-50 weight is typical for most sewing
    • select a type of thread that compliments your project
      • If you’re sewing with cotton fabrics, use cotton thread
      • Poly or synthetic fabrics coordinate with polyester thread
      • Or select a decorative thread appropriate for your project
    • Brand does matter!
thread 1
Thread Matters
  • What are you using the thread for?
    • Piecing
      • use a slightly lighter weight thread than you would for standard sewing.  I recommend a 50 or 60 weight thread.  If you use a slightly lighter weight thread, your seams will lay flatter and look cleaner.
    • Quilting
      • Do you want a thread with a sheen?
        • Polyester or mercerized cotton
      • Reduce your lint
        • I’ve found that Glide threads (Hab + Dash) produce significantly less lint that other brands
        • Most cotton threads will produce at least a little lint
      • How bold do you want the quilting to be?
        • For quilting that blends, try a lighter weight thread
        • For bold quilting that really stands out
          • Glide 40 wt
          • A thread color that contrasts with the fabrics
blending thread
blending thread – thread matters!

Whew!  Well, I’ve gone on for a little longer than I originally intended, but that’s because thread is SO important.  I hope you find some of the things I’ve shared helpful and that you can find some peace with your piecing 🙂

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Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt FREE PATTERN

Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt

Who wants a free Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt Pattern?  Well today is your lucky day!!!

You have to check out this adorable fabric line Michael Miller Fabrics just released. The line is called Ice Cream, You Scream and the colors are everything!  Also, there’s this border print that is just dying to be put in a quilt (or made into a little girl’s skirt!!), and nearly makes me swoon!  I got a chance to get my hands on this fabric to design a quilt for the release, and I’m not gonna lie…I spent a few hours just playing with the fabric and coordinating Cotton Couture.  It features sweet ice cream cones, sundaes, and the best stripes.  It reminded me of the 4th of July and ice cream socials and everything pure in the world.  The best part is, Michael Miller Fabrics is offering this pattern as a freebie–you can get your own PDF pattern download from their website.

Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt
Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt – Picture from Michael Miller Fabrics website

The pattern is for “confident beginners”, which just means you need a general knowledge of foundation paper piecing and fussy cutting.  I fussy cut the border pieces so the ice cream sundaes were centered along the center of the borders, and the cornerstones in the border were fussy cut to showcase the cute little ice cream phrases on the fabric.

I had a blast designing and piecing the quilt.  I had even more fun quilting it!  I used Glide thread (from Hab+Dash) and Quilter’s Dream batting in the quilt.  I used a few different colors of thread and matched them to the different fabrics.  Most of the quilting was handguided free motion quilting, with the assistance of straight rulers for the grids.

Ice cream cone
Ice Cream Cone Quilting
Cornerstone block quilting

I’d love to see what you do with the pattern–the foundation paper piecing blocks are pretty quick to sew up.  Just remember to shorten your stitch length (I like to use 1.5) so the paper is perforated enough to tear away easily and print your paper piecing templates at 100%.  Then add your sashing and borders and voila!  Don’t forget to grab your free copy, and check out the pattern (pictured below).  Happy sewing!!!

Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt
Ice Cream, You Scream Quilt
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Quilting Leslie’s Kaffe Fassett Quilt

Leslie's Kaffe Quilt

Man, oh man!  I had the honor of quilting this awesome Kaffe Fassett quilt by Leslie Tucker Jenison.  Leslie pieced her quilt based on Kaffe Fassett’s quilt pattern from the book Quilts in Sweden (pictured below-photo from amazon.com), using his fabric.  Leslie also pieced the backing using some awesome linen and polka dots.

Leslie had requested some straight line quilting to follow the lines of the fabric pattern–I loved that idea.  Quilting a quilt like this using a concentric design can be a challenge on the longarm, and you sometimes end up advancing and rolling back the quilt on the frame back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, (did I say back and forth already?) etc.  To avoid doing that ONE MILLION times, I connected some of the lines, and I really liked the outcome of the quilting look.

Quilting close up

The lines of this fabric are so amazingly deceptive and provide the illusion that this was painstakingly pieced.  I love the wonky look of the finished quilt and really found the design brilliant!  I have been wanting to do a stripe study (kind of like how some people do color or quilt block studies) for so long, and this made me move that up my priority list.  Someday soon I’ll start that project.

The thread used was Magnifico in black and batting was Quilter’s Dream Orient with Quilter’s Dream Wool layered beneath the quilt top.  This was quilted using electric channel locks on my Innova longarm (hand guided), and those electric channel locks make all the difference.  I recently upgraded and had those installed from the basic manual channel locks that come on the machine.

The difference is this:

Manual channel locks:

  1. walk to the back of the machine and engage the channel lock
  2. quilt a straight line
  3. stop the machine
  4. walk to the back of the machine and disengage the channel lock
  5. walk to the front of the machine and move to new point
  6. repeat 1-5 over and again

Electric channel locks:

  1. Push remote button from front of machine to engage channel lock
  2. Quilt a straight line
  3. stop the machine
  4. push remote button from front of machine to disengage channel lock
  5. move needle to new point
  6. repeat 1-5 as needed (and your legs are breathing a huge sigh of relief from all that walking you just saved yourself)

I digress.  Here’s some more amazing eye candy from Leslie’s quilt.

Leslie’s Kaffe Quilt
Angled close up

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can check it out here on Amazon.

 

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Wisecraft Handstitched English Paper Piecing Pillow

My finished English paper piecing pillow

After a long day at work, picking the kiddo up from daycare, fixing dinner and doing the dishes…I like to relax by doing English Paper Piecing.  I started my EPP journey before Gemma was born by sewing up La Passacaglia (pattern by Willyne Hammerstein).  I’d pick my fabrics in the morning before I went to work (this was when I was still teaching high school), then when I got home, I’d cut the fabrics out as quickly as I could, make dinner, etc., then start glue stick basting all the papers on the couch.  I’d organize all my rosettes into little zip lock baggies so I could just grab and go.  I also had color coded templates I made so I wouldn’t get my little papers confused.  I’d throw a prepped ziplock into my purse when I knew I’d be travelling with students and had some time alone at the hotel at night and sew when I had a chance.  That project really hooked me into EPP.

Fast forward to now…I sew full time and any extra time in the morning is spent prepping for the day’s work ahead.  Now I have a sweet & sour toddler who demands most of my extra time in the evenings, and I’m so wiped after she goes to bed that the last thing I want to do is think about anything.  That is…until I got Blair Stocker’s Wisecraft Quilts book.  It’s such an organically creative book about repurposing and it really pulls at my creative heartstrings.

Wise Craft Quilts
Wise Craft Quilts

There’s an EPP project in Blair’s book called “Handstitched” that made me fall in love with English Paper Piecing all over again.  It’s a project I was confident I could complete, even with my never ending checklist and a needy toddler.  If you’re so inclined, you can pick up a paper template kit from Blair’s website HERE.  (Full disclosure-none of these are affiliate links.  I don’t get anything out of you making a purchase other than the satisfaction of knowing you’ll love this project as much as I do!)  Below is a picture from Blair’s book of the project and my beginning planning phase of the EPP.  Anytime I do EPP, I always sketch out a “map” of the project with a key for what fabric goes where.  I can’t ever remember what my original plan is without writing it down!

Handstitched EPP planning
Handstitched EPP planning

You can see in the finished/progress pictures that I didn’t end up using some of my fabric selections.  I’m a die hard Anna Maria Horner lover, and I ended up mainly using one print of hers that I’m a sucker for fussy cutting.  There’s so much going on in the pattern of that one fabric that you can basically fussy cut it all over and get dozens of different looks.

Handstitched step 1
Handstitched step 1

I started by assembling the center with my fussy cut pieces.

Handstitched step 2
Handstitched step 2

I absolutely LOVE incorporating stripes and straight lines into EPP.  I’m always surprised by the outcome.  See above.

Handstitched step 3
Handstitched step 3

There’s just something about those dull gold and maroons working with that magenta and mint that make them almost glow.

Spray basting onto my pillow front
Spray basting onto my pillow front

So I decided this project would be a perfect throw pillow.  Once I started it, I knew I needed to see this EPP on a daily basis and not just hanging out in my sewing studio.  I grabbed my favorite spray baste and cut a pillow front a little larger than it needed to be finished so I could quilt it as well.  I used Chaco liner to mark the pillow front into quarters to easily find the center and centered the English Paper Piecing piece on the pillow front.  After I used just a smidge of spray baste, I hand appliqued it to the fabric (also AMH fabric-loominous).  All while sitting on my cozy couch with the husband 🙂

applique
Appliqueing the EPP to the pillow front

I used Wonderfil 100 wt. thread to hand stitch.  I quilted some simple straight lines on the pillow front to add a little texture.  The Loominous fabric already has a grid motif on it, so I only did straight lines one way to save me some time.

Quilting
Quilting

 

My finished EPP pillow
My finished EPP pillow

I could have just stitched up the project and made a mini out of it, but we’re a pillow household.  I love how you have to really look at the center to see the English Paper Piecing template shapes.  The stripes really break it up and make you have to search for it.  I’m really hoping to start another of these soon once I get some other projects off my plate because it is so enjoyable to sew.  I put a lot of thought and even auditioned some of the fabrics before I started sewing, but you could just as easily make a scrappy version that would look outstanding as well.  I believe Blair’s version in the book is all Liberty (insert all the heart-eyed emojis here!!!).

Basically, I love this project.  I can sit my fanny on the couch and relax while my fingers do all the work.  And it makes me still feel like I’m being productive (while not actually having to do anything strenuous).  Win-win, right!?

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RJR What Shade Are You? Blog Hop

Dreamer's Star Quilt

What Shade Are You? Blog hop

Hi!  I’m Joanna Marsh from Kustom Kwilts.  I live in the Texas Hill Country with my husband and baby girl.  I have been so captivated by all of the #whatshadeareyou projects and the RJR Cotton Supreme Solids, and I’m so excited to share mine with you on the RJR blog today–The Dreamer’s Star Quilt!  You can check out my instagram @kustomkwilts to see what I’m up to.  I’m so excited to be featured on the RJR blog today with their amazing cotton supreme solids!  Check out the What Shade Are You? posts for some amazing inspiration here.

Dreamer's Star Quilt
Dreamer’s Star Quilt in RJR Cotton Supreme Solids

A little background on what brought me to quilting: In my previous career, I was a high school agriculture science teacher.  My principal’s secretary was a quilter, and I mentioned to her that I was interested in starting to sew.  I remember her telling me the secret to quilting was a consistent quarter inch seam allowance–and that as long as I remembered that, I’d be okay!  I found a beginner’s quilting book in my teacher mailbox one morning with a sweet note of encouragement from Donna Jo (principal’s secretary), and that was how my sewing journey began.  Both of my grandmothers were amazing seamstresses, but I had never learned to sew from them.  One thing I’ve learned about the sewing community is that it’s full of people who want to share their love of the craft with others, and I love being part of such a giving community!

In 2016, I left my teaching job and committed to sewing and quilting full time.  At my 9-5 job (really more like 5-9), I would find myself thinking about sewing in spare moments.  The Dreamer’s Star Quilt is a quilt I drew while dreaming of doing the thing I love as a career, and I knew I wanted to use my favorite pattern for the What shade are you project.  The design reminds me of the toy kaleidoscopes that produce different images just by turning the end, and how the images can be so bold and impactful.  I love quilts that have a large central design and aren’t necessarily block based.   I also remembered that when I started quilting, I struggled with selecting lots of fabrics to coordinate within a quilt, and I wanted a design that would look great with a two-color scheme, but could also make a big impact with lots of colors.  This is the original quilt that I used Michael Miller’s painter’s canvas with.

Dreamer's Star Mini Quilt
Dreamer’s Star Mini Quilt

I knew that the Dreamer’s Star Quilt would just glow with RJR Cotton Supreme Solids, and wanted to use colors that would reflect the gorgeous sunsets that we sometimes see out in the Texas Hill Country.

RJR Cotton Supreme Solids

There are so many amazing colors to choose from and I went with 11 of my absolute favorites:

292-Turks and Caicos

279-Purple Haze

274-Riviera

317-Jacaranda

391-Robin’s Egg

328-Bora Bora

422-Plum

371-Melody

333-Bougainvillea

287-Raging Ruby

378-Lilac Festival.

RJR Cotton Supreme Solids
Look at those yummy colors!

While I was browsing through the color card, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself about the clever names of the colors.  Some of my color selections might tell you that I’m ready to take a vacation 😉

Piecing the quilt together was a breeze with lots of simple half-square triangles and chain piecing.

Half Square triangles
I love these color combos!

I love to use several shades of similar colors to create a little depth and dimensions to a quilt.  For the backing I used Bougainvillea with a strip of Bora Bora down the middle, and Turks and Caicos for the binding. I loved seeing all the colors melt together, but still be distinctly different, just as in a sunset.

Back of the quilt
Bougainvillea with a strip of Bora Bora really make the quilt back glow.

Once the top was completed, I loaded it on my longarm and quilted some simple straight lines with rulers and added some free motion accents in coordinating Glide threads.

quilting the quilt
Quilting the quilt

I love using Quilter’s Dream Wool to keep the quilt lightweight–remember, I live in Texas–but still let the quilting pop.  I had a lot of fun getting some pictures at the Cibolo Wilderness Trail in Boerne, Texas.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day and my husband and mom were my professional quilt holders.

quilt at the cibolo

Check out other versions of the Dreamer’s Star on Instagram with #dreamersstarquilt and you can pick up your copy of the pattern here.  The pattern comes with three different size options, and the color combinations you could choose are limitless!  I had so much fun making this quilt and drooling over the Cotton Supreme Solids.  Thanks for joining me in this quilting adventure, and a huge thank you to RJR for allowing me to participate and for the inspiration they bring with the #whatshadeareyou blog hop!

Quilt Details:

Pattern: ‘Dreamer’s Star’ by Kustom Kwilts

Fabrics: RJR Cotton Supreme Solids (full list above)

Backing: Bougainvillea and Bora Bora RJR Cotton Supreme Solids

Binding: Turks and Caicos RJR Cotton Supreme Solids

Quilting: Long arm quilted by Joanna Marsh of Kustom Kwilts

Finished Size: Approx. 80″ x 80″

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Churn Dash Quilt – Love Patchwork and Quilting Issue 54

Love Patchwork and Quilting Issue 54

Who doesn’t love a little churn dash quilt?  I know I can’t seem to get enough of the traditional block that basically represents butter being churned!  Have you peeked in issue 54 to check it out?  I’ll tell you a little bit about the design…

Love Patchwork and Quilting Issue 54
Photo provided by Love Patchwork and Quilting

I’m so excited to share my most recent quilt with you from the Love Patchwork and Quilting Issue 54.  I’m inspired by bright, saturated colors–and that’s typically the palette I use.  But for this quilt, I opt for a more subtle palette. The cheery sherbet colors and hints of greys that are sure to make you swoon!  This quilt- “Sorbet Shades” in the mag, is inspired by one of my favorite traditional quilt blocks–the churn dash.  This block is so rich in history and I love that it can be interpreted in a modern way.  I have a great appreciation for the traditional quilt blocks and the colors they typically have.  I also love seeing them updated in a more modern way.

One of the first quilts I made when I was learning to sew was a traditional churn dash quilt.  My mother and I gave this special quilt to my grandmother prior to her passing.  The churn dash block represents so much more to me than just a traditional quilting block.  The simplicity of the block lends itself to being altered in construction in so many ways.  The possibilities for this block are limitless!  I quilted this quilt with swirls on the white background and simple straight lines on the colored blocks.

Sorbet Shades Quilt as pictured in Love Patchwork and Quilting, Issue 54
Photo provided by Love Patchwork and Quilting

For this project, I use some delightful Kona Cotton Solids and create a coordinating pillow to go with the quilt.  The colors in these projects really make me want some ice cream and macaroons–or really any other cute little pastel dessert!  I hope you’ll checkout the issue (digital issues are available here).  Don’t be afraid to try your hand at breaking out of the traditional box to create a modern spin on traditional.  (photos above provided by Love Patchwork and Quilting).

 

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Sewing for littles – Superhero cape and mask tutorial

If you’re on the hunt for a sweet project to keep your little super hero busy this summer, pick up some satin and felt and sew up this easy superhero cape and mask.  I used the Janome MC9400 to put this project together, and you can find the full tutorial HERE.

This isn’t a difficult project, and you can practice some basic applique skills to put a great finishing touch on it.  Personalize this project with your kiddo’s favorite colors to really make this project pop!

This tutorial was made for approximately 3T-5T.  The mask will fit larger children as well.

My best friend allowed me to have her precious little girl model this for me, and you can tell she’s ready to take on the world 🙂  Happy sewing!

 

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Summer Picnic Quilt

Summer Picnic Quilt tutorial

When summer arrives, I always get the itch to make a quilt.  Nevermind the fact that I live in Texas and it is sweltering, to say the least.  Also, disregard the fact that I have quilts coming out of my ears…what is that saying…you can’t swing a cat without hitting a quilt?  (Surely that isn’t the saying, but I think you catch my drift!)  So when I am thinking about making a new quilt…I need to have a reason for it, aside from just being functional to keep you warm.  I also love to sew with materials that are a little unexpected.  So I teamed up with Janome and American Quilter’s Society to bring you a free tutorial for a great summer picnic quilt.

This pattern is great for many reasons.  It’s layer cake friendly, which makes it a super quick sew.  The blocks are large enough to feature those great prints you’ve been holding on to for a special quilt.  The quilt is large enough to accommodate a family picnic at the park.  The backing can be made from laminated cotton (or regular quilting cotton, if you choose), so it won’t pick up dirt as easily as standard quilting cotton.  You can just as easily throw it in the wash as you can a regular quilt (line dry to be on the safe side).  So grab two layer cake packs and your favorite sewing and quilting notions and get ready to sew your socks off!  Follow the link to the American Quilter’s Society blog to get started on your picnic quilt.  

This is a great quilt to fold up and keep in the back of the car for unexpected outings (and if you have a little one in diapers, you can always use the laminated cotton side as a quick changing station on the go!).  

I quilted this with some large meandering loops on my Janome MC9400, and was done with the quilting in under two hours.  


Since the back of my quilt uses laminated cotton, I slipped a Supreme Slider onto the bed of the sewing machine and it really helped glide the fabric easily under the needle.  This isn’t something you have to do, but it certainly makes the task a little easier.  I tend to use one anytime I’m quilting something larger than a mini quilt.  Put on your favorite podcast/Netflix and get ready to sew up a storm!  Happy sewing 🙂 

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Summer fun and a DIY first aid kit

DIY first aid kit
Now that summer is here, many people are planning day outings or vacations with the kiddos.  It’s a good idea to have a first aid kit with you in case something happens, and I know I haven’t even kept one in my car (I’m learning, though!).  So this pattern has a free zipper pouch tutorial and a free foundation paper piecing tutorial in it.  Two for the price of one! But not really, because they’re both free 😉  Head over to the AQS Blog and get your free tutorial HERE!

finished foundation block

If you don’t feel like messing around with the band aid block and the paper piecing, you can totally skip that part and just cut two slid pieces of fabric for the front and back.  But those little band aids are so cute!  

I filled my little kit up with band aids, some antiseptic spray and wipes, bandage tape, gauze, and antibiotic ointment.  You can personalize yours however you’d like and maybe sew up an extra one for a friend (or for dad’s car).  The little band aids are a great way to use up small scraps of fabric.  I know I have a hard time throwing any fabric away, so I’ll keep this block pattern close at hand for teacher gifts or whatever!  Happy sewing until next time!

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Quilting on unconventional fabrics – Quilted Notebook bag tutorial

Happy, happy 4th of July!  I hope you’re able to enjoy the holiday with your loved ones and make some great memories.  

Today, I’m excited to share a free tutorial that I created with the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9400 for an awesome project bag.  I’m always scouring the house for bags to load up with notebooks, sketch pads, folders, or whatever I’m currently working on to squeeze in a few extra minutes of work on the go, and this bag has a little extra depth to really protect all those items.  It’s also reversible, so you can make one side to go with the fall season and the other a little brighter to work with spring and summer!

Reversible Notebook Bag

Plus…we’ll take a look at quilting on a thicker fabric than your usual quilting cotton.  I do a lot of quilting and embroidery on leather and faux leather fabrics, and there is a lot of hesitation when it comes to that from some.  When I started sewing, I didn’t take a bunch of classes…rather, I just dove in and experimented to find what worked for me.  I didn’t have anyone there to tell me I shouldn’t try something, or that it wouldn’t work, so I think that was a huge benefit.  For this tutorial, break out that walking foot (or your free motion foot) and try your hand at some geometric quilting.  

Janome Dual Feed Foot quilting geometric lines on faux leather

If you haven’t tried quilting on leather or faux leather before, I’d recommend getting a few scraps of some cheap faux leather–my local Joann’s has lots of remnants on clearance that I grab whenever I can–and do some quick samples.  I usually do my best work on “trash” fabric when there’s no pressure to mess up expensive fabrics.  I’ll make sure my pieces are big enough to make a little cosmetic bag or something with later on, because 9 times out of 10, I end up wishing I could save my sample!  

This really is a quick sew–and you can easily alter the bag measurements to make the bag any size you like, upgrade it to add some pockets on the interior and exterior, or whatever your needs are.  Check out the full tutorial on the American Quilter’s Society Blog and have fun with it!  Go and conquer your fears of quilting on some different fabrics, and happy sewing!