Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Embroidery Machine 101

I post a lot of my embroidery pictures on FB and am active in a bunch of online embroidery groups. I've only been doing this for 2yrs now and am self taught but I remember how daunting it was to use my expensive machine the first few times. I was scared something was going to go wrong and it always did. I ruined the first few shirts I tried and then moved on to simple straight fonts from embroidered onto scrap fabric I then turned into bibs. I don't remember when it started to click for me but eventually it did. Here are some of my favorites products and tips for anyone just getting started. I own a Brother PE780d but the machine won't matter for most of these tips!

READ YOUR MANUAL! It seems like a given but it's a step a lot of us skip. It's kind of boring but it tells you so much. Your machine can stop mid stitch, move forward and backward single stitched or whole steps and more. It will be the difference between a ruined project and a useable one!!

Stabilizer.... it really is the key to good embroidery. You'll find your rhythm but for the most part if the fabric is stretchy and going to be worn (think t-shirts, onesies, etc.) you're going to need a cutaway. Cutaway stabilizer doesn't attach to the shirt itself. You lay it under the shirt and hoop the shirt and the stabilizer together.
     In The Hoop projects (masks, key fobs, coasters, tags) - Hoop only tearaway and begin
     Shirts - I prefer a mid weight iron on stabilizer (pellon from JoAnns works fine) and then I hoop  
                 the shirt and cutaway stabilizer for long lasting designs.
     Towels/Burp Cloths - Hoop tear away stabilizer and the item. Use water soluble stabilizer if it's a
                 thick item (like towels) to keep the stitches form sinking down.

Practice hooping over and over again. If your design is off or stitches not aligned it is likely all in your hooping and stabilizer choice. Don't stretch the hooped item at all. I try ot only pull and move the stabilizer so I'm sure my shirt isn't being stretched.

Don't be intimidated by appliques. Dense stitching is the easiest to see mistakes on so it's the hardest for newbies and often the very thing they try first. Appliques are amazing and much easier. They usually start with a placement stitch which will run and show you where to put your fabric choice. Then lay down your fabric of choice and the next step is usually a tackdown. At this point remove your hoop from the machine but NOT your item from the hoop. While still in the hoop, trim as close as you can to the stitches. Place back on and continue. I iron on Heat n Bond Lite to the back of my applique fabrics and then iron the whole design once done. This simple helps adhere the whole fabric to the shirt and makes for a flatter design once you wash. It also keeps fabric form fraying if you happen to trim to close!

Learn what thread your machine likes. Don't buy a ton of thread at once or else you might find some your machine won't tolerate. If you're getting lots of thread breaks or bobbin thread showing through it is likely your thread. My machine hates brands which don't wind completely horizontal on the spool. After the first few layers Robinson-Anton and Gutterman start cross-crossing and this leads to multiple thread breakages for me. I've heard Coats and Clark is horrible thread but for me it stitches the best. I've tried every brand at JoAnns and the Viking store and C&C works for us! Just in case you're really a newbie bobbin thread us usually just white and you use the colored thread for the top. If you're doing an in the hoop project you can switch out the bobbin thread so they match from behind but usually it's not a concern.

Amazon carries some amazing and affordable supplies. Here are some of my favorites!!

Pre-wound Bobbins! Such a great deal and easy to use. They did ship to me in an untaped small box in  bigger box and my first order spilled everywhere. Amazon replaced quickly. The product itself is great though.

Cut Away Stabilizer for a 5" by 7"hoop I thought this role would last forever but mine only has a quarter left and I got it for Christmas!! Love this stuff and cheaper than JoAnns or elsewhere. I will probably get a slightly wider role next time because this is just big enough and I'd like a little more leeway. It works fine though!

Tear Away Stabilizer This is slightly wider than the above stabilizer and very easy to use. Perfect for all the in the hoop projects!!

Once you've mastered simple designs on your machine you're going to want software. Without it you can't merge a design and a name you have to rehoop or guess on placement. I use Embird and love that it will also expand to be full digitizing software if I make additional purchases. Regular software is just for merging already made designs and digitizing means you start from scratch or import a picture and go from there. There are tons of free designs and designs available for cheap but the real fun comes when you can tweak those and add names and monograms!! Here are some great designers: Rockin' Embroidery, Nobbie Neez, Planet Applique, Bayou Belle Appliques

If you're just starting out and have questions feel free to post below and I'll help where I can or direct you to some resources!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Liss Thomas, The Guardians of Esurack

Disclosure: I received this product in order to facilitate my review.

I stumbled upon a book series by Liss Thomas called The Guardians of Esurack. Luckily she was looking for reviewers and I quickly applied! The books (two currently released) are a steal on Amazon with the kindle editions costing only $1.99.

Finding Monsters takes us on an adventure as Missy, a teen dying of cancer, discovers her monster under her bed. Charlie, her self named monster, reveals himself and the two continue on into his world. There we meet talking animals, a troll, and even dragons as Missy quests to become a monster and join Charlie.

In Becoming Monsters we get to see Missy, Charlie, and Saal's relationship develop as they chase down Anukkhan to retrieve Missy's stolen blue light. This book returns them to the human world so I was a bit anxious to see how the story would develop. Being a sequel I wondered if it would live up to the first book and the hopes I had now that I was introduced to the characters. It totally did!!

I'm not going to give away spoilers but Liss blends this seemingly unrelated group of fantasy characters as smoothly as can be. I was honestly impressed that neither book seemed forced. Both  are full of emotion from start to finish and luckily have great happy endings!! I'm such a sap for that!

If you want a book or two in which you can escape I highly recommend both Finding Monsters and Becoming Monsters!!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Smart for Life Giveaway

Huge Smart for Life giveaway!!! Be sure to check it out. My review will be coming soon so stay tuned and get your entries in now.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Pics 2014

Our baskets with awesome chalk from ChalkItUpKids!!
Carter tries and M&M
Bunny outfit #1
Bubble fun!!
It's impossible to get them both looking at me and making cute faces!
Serious CC!
Bunny hop!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mommy Planner

Disclosure: I received this product to facilitate my review.

Every year in school as a child I loved picking out my supplies and my paper assignment tracker and planner. I've long since left behind the assignment tracking, but my life is still hectic and filled with obligations. For a long time, I've wanted something in addition to my phone calendar. I'm trying out being more organized with a Mommy Planner from Tools4Wisdom which you can check out on Amazon.

It's a very thick and sturdy planner full of opportunities to jot down appointments and events plus even more. What makes this planner more than just a paper calendar is the goal oriented planning sheets. If you like journaling or planning long term aspirations and hopes these pages are perfect for you!! There are twelve goal oriented pages plus the journaling section.

For me, the mommy brain kicked in the moment I birthed Nolan. I used to remember every detail but I really need to write things down now!! My favorite is the ample room for our many events. there are day, week, and month views and the planner itself is spiral bound and lies completely flat for easy writing. That's a big personal preference for me. I can't write well by hand in something that isn't plain paper or spiral bound!!
If you're having trouble picturing the whole setup or want tutorials to help you make the most of your planner, is the place to visit! They are active on Facebook, Twitter, and have awesome inspirational pins too!! If you're not a mom or looking for only a calendar organizer Tools4Wisdom has their planner version too. There really is a version for everyone.

Tools4Wisdom is a small business who gives personal customer service. If you have an issue or concern they are fast to order. I love supporting small companies who value my dollars! Check out all they have to offer!!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Fun

Leading up to Easter for the boys, lots of the fun can be had simply playing with eggs!! Last year Nolan painted (liquid watercolors) wooden eggs in a simple egg spinner. When I grabbed his basket from the attic to monogram earlier this week, he saw the wooden eggs again and has been playing with them ever since. Last night I stayed up late and hard boiled 3 dozen eggs so we could have lots of fun the rest of the week. (Walgreens has them on sale $.99/doz)

Here are some pics of our fun so far!!
Starting out with his volcano eggs (food coloring and baking soda painted on)

dropping on the vinegar to get the volcano effect

Carter eating paint painting his egg

Shaving cream eggs and their after mess

Drying before we wipe the shaving cream off

Upset little boy with colored hands for half the day

Sampling one of his eggs for lunch (only food safe items were used on this)

Not real thrilled with hard boiled eggs

Friday, April 11, 2014

Packing our Snacks

Disclosure: I received this product in order to facilitate a review.
I am always on the lookout for portable snack containers that can be reused, are safe for our foods, and don't leak all over our lunch bags. I pretty much have to carry something full of snacks and drinks on me at all times with two small kids. My boys are on a restricted diet (gluten free) and C is an insanely picky eater so I have to be prepared with a large variety of food items but don't always need a large quantity. Here's a typical snack/meal for us!

Prepping this sort of meal requires a lot of packing so I was happy to try out the MIRA stainless steel mini containers. They are food grade stainless steel containers with BPA free plastic lids. I loved that they were small enough to easily fit in our lunch bags and just hold a few ounces, 5 to be exact. The lids stay on and even hold in liquidy items like canned fruits and hummus two of our must haves! Carter likes to hold his own snacks so many times he grabs the bases while eating. They've easily  survived throws onto the floor!

If you're looking for something small, spill proof, and safe for your food and snacks check out MIRA!!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Juice in the Box

UPDATE: Yesterday (4/29/14) Carter took his JITB on a stroller ride. he knocked it over from the tray onto the concrete and the small part that holds the lid hinge on broke off. It wasn't a rough throw just a normal fall after he accidentally nudged it.  It's still useable at home but we can't take it anywhere as the lid is completely attached and it would drip and make a mess. I contacted precidio and they said they are aware of this happening to a few others and they are looking into making it even more durable. In the meantime they offer to replace for $9.99. Hopefully their next design will include a full removable lid!!

Disclosure: I received this product for free in order to facilitate my review.
Carter has been testing out an awesome juicebox alternative the last few weeks. If you've ever read my blog, you know I'm crazy for green, reusable products over those we just throw away. Check out my cloth diaper's info to see just how much we like reusable!!

The Juice in the Box (JITB) refillable and reusable drink container is just what we needed to let our littlest feel a part of the party while still controlling exactly what he's drinking. Since it arrived, I've taken JITB out to eat, to birthday parties, and used it at everyday meals.

Made from Tritan, a BPA and Phthalate Free plastic, it's virtually indestructible. Ask me how many times it's been thrown across the room already!! The top portion pops off and has a soft seal to prevent leaks. The straw folds under the lid for portability yet it is still easy for little ones to drink from. I try to keep it upright in our lunchbox once filled to prevent the straw from dripping some but overall it does not leak excessively. It's about as leak proof as every sippy cup we've ever found.

When Carter sees the JITB he always points and yells "Wawa" asking for water in it! It also helps to entertain him and make him feel like a big boy when everyone else has restaurant cups or kids have disposable juice boxes. 

We love our Juice in the Box or as we use it mainly water with a splash of juice in the box!! I'm excited to have gotten to try one and now Nolan also wants his own. If you need a unique gift this is something moms of toddlers through school-agers can appreciate! These would be perfect for Easter baskets and stocking stuffers too!!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guess what he says now?!

Aww I love this little crazy wild boy too!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

iPhone pics!

I usually carry my fancy camera around and upload those pictures often. Because of this, I never manage to transfer the random pictures I take with my phone. Here ya go!!

On one of our first hot days of the year Carter and I hung out waiting for Nolan to finish speech therapy. 

How I found Carter after his supposed nap. He kept saying "off"!

Walk time!

Stylin' for preschool picture day!!

Carter wanted a pic too!

C's cheese face while eating a banana. 

Nolan and the consignment store hat!!

Our rockin' kinderpack!!

My sexy hubby wearing our littlest!

Serious Nolan. 

Awesome consignment sale book Nolan picked. 

See even the big guy fits!!