Free February Wallpaper

Free February Wallpaper from Shiny Happy World

Happy February!

That ADORABLE frog is the new Ami Club pattern for February. He was so much fun to stitch up – and those googly eyes are so cute – I had to include him on this month’s calendar. ๐Ÿ™‚

Download your wallpaper below – there are options both with and without a February calendar.Free February Wallpaper from Shiny Happy World

Click here to download the one for computers/tablets.

Click here to download the same image with no calendar.

Free February Wallpaper from Shiny Happy World

Click here to download the one for phones.

Click here to download the same image with no calendar.

Enjoy!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

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How to Crochet Together Two Rounds Separated by a Foundation Chain – video tutorial

How to Crochet Together Two Roun ds Separated by a Foundation Chain - video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Whew! That’s quite a mouthful! But it’s actually a really easy technique that lets you get two bumps with some space between them, like the awesome googly eyes on this frog.

Alexander the Frog - crochet amigurumi pattern from Shiny Happy World

(Want that adorable pattern? Sign up for Ami Club! It’s the free pattern this month!)

If you’ve crocheted standing legs in an amigurumi before, this is going to look really familiar to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s the video.

See how easy? This opens up all kinds of fun possibilities for different shapes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

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How to Attach Amigurumi Arms and Legs with Single Crochet – video tutorial

How to Attach Amigurumi Arms and legs with Single Crochet - video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Sometimes you attach amigurumi limbs after you’ve made all the parts using whipstitch and a tapestry needle.

This is necessary if the attachment runs across several rows of stitching, but if the attachment is running WITH a row of stitching, you can attach limbs while you crochet the body – all in one nifty step!

I love attaching arms and legs this way because it’s super easy AND super secure AND it looks really nice.

There’s a post here with text and photo instructions, but here’s a video to give you an additional view of the process if you like.

See how easy that is?

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

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Joining Strips with a Diagonal Seam

Joining Strips with a Diagonal Seam - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I almost always use scrappy bindings in my quilts and I get a lot of questions about how I get those diagonal seams.

I show the diagonal seam in my video How to Bind a Quilt – but I never actually showed how to do it.

Until now.

See how easy that is?

I use this method any time I’m joining strips together. For me that usually binding a quilt, but it can also be for bias strips on bags, clothing, and any other application.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

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Play

Play - thinky thoughts from Shiny Happy World

Last week’s words were hard for me.

Why?

Because they involved drawing.

I didn’t have a lot of time so I was working with what I had – which was a tablet and a bunch of patterns I’ve already designed.

But I had to draw those letters and – you guys – that is SO HARD for me.

Even though drawing is part of my job (I draw all the designs for my patterns) I still panic every time I sit down with a pencil and a blank piece of paper.

I literally have to force myself to do it.

I tried to talk myself down last week. I knew I wanted playful, loose letters. They didn’t need to be perfect, or perfectly lined up, or perfectly centered. They just needed to look like letters. And letters are way easier than faces!

I agonized over those letters.

I couldn’t agonize for too long, because I really didn’t have a lot of time – but I started and erased so many times!

Sometimes I’m up for facing challenges head-on, and sometimes I’m all about finding an easier way around them.

This week was all about finding the easier way. ๐Ÿ™‚

I wanted to play. ๐Ÿ™‚

OK – I told myself. I like this project of making words. But I freak out every time I pick up a pencil.

Can I do this without a pencil?

I’ve been reading a lot about improv quilts and I’m planning to play with that as soon as I get my design wall up – but that’s piecing.

Can I do these words with improv applique?

I did something like that with paper for a bunch of cards I made for my daughter. Let me try it with words!

So I did.

And I LOVED IT!

It was SO MUCH FUN!

Sure – I messed up. I cut the first letter looking at the back (fusible adhesive) side of the fabric and only realized after I had cut out a perfect P that I had cut it out backwards.

Trash can.

(Why does throwing a scrap of fabric in the trash not feel like I’m an abject failure, but erasing a line does?)

I got a new plan.

I cut a set a four rectangles of fusible adhesive from my massive bag of scraps. I fused them to the back of some fabric scraps and then cut them out so that the entire fabric piece was fused. That way I could cut from the fabric side and know the whole thing was backed with adhesive. (That also gave me a rough guide for the size of the letter.)

I started freehand cutting from the fabric side and everything was cake after that.

I wanted to preserve the elephant in the middle of the A so I cut kind of a weird-shaped A and really like it.

I like that the L is way taller than the other letters.

I want to play with this some more!

Cutting out the holes in the A and the P were less fun. Maybe I can play with the print of the fabric to create fake “holes?” Like – could I have made the elephant be the hole in the A? Could I have used a floral print for the P and positioned the cut so that there’s a round flower where the hole should be?

Some fun ideas for my next playtime. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Free Crochet Heart Pattern

Free Hearts Crochet Pattern - from Shiny Happy World

Crochet these fun hearts!

Whatโ€™s better than hearts for Valentineโ€™s Day? This pattern contains instructions for 3 sizes of stuffed hearts! The small measures 2.5 inches tall, the medium is 5 inches tall, and the large is a whopping 7 inches tall!!

These hearts are adorable plush decorations on their ownโ€ฆ but the medium size is specially designed to turn any FreshStitches amigurumi into a Valentineโ€™s Day amigurumi!

Here you can see the same Owen the Monkey with the three different size hearts. ๐Ÿ™‚

Download the free pattern here!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

My Sewing Machine and Why I Love It

My Sewing Machine - a Bernina 710 - Shiny Happy World

I get a LOT of people asking me to recommend a sewing machine and I never really feel like I can answer that.

Before I recommended a fusible adhesive – I tested a bunch of different brands.

Before I recommended fabric paints or markers for eyes, I tested a bunch of different brands.

I just haven’t sewn on enough different sewing machines to recommend one. Plus – a machine that’s perfect for me might not be perfect for you. It all depends on what you like to sew!

What I CAN do is tell you what I sew on and why it’s perfect for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

My current machine is a Bernina 710.

Before that I had a Pfaff Lifestyle (no longer made) that I really liked, but I went shopping for a new brand when we moved to the mountains and I was suddenly 3 hours from the nearest place that would service Pfaffs. So – number one – make sure whatever brand you buy is one you can easily get serviced. You should take your machine in once a year for a deep clean and you don’t want to have to drive for hours. ๐Ÿ™‚

So – back to my Bernina.

I LOVE HER!

Here’s why. . .

I mostly sew quilts – and mostly applique – so these features knock my socks off:

  • I can set my machine to stop with the needle down and it automatically raises the presser foot halfway so I can pivot my work. This is my favorite feature!
  • My machine ties knots for me at the beginning and end of my stitching. And at the end of my stitching it also pulls the threads to the back and clips them. Magic!
  • I can adjust the amount of pressure on my presser foot – which is handy when I’m quilting really wavy lines without basting the layers first. This is also nice when I’m sewing softies and sometimes need to sew through 6 layers of cuddle fleece. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I love the built-in walking foot. I basically keep it engaged all the time.
  • It has a supersized bobbin which is great for quilting. Not as much running out of bobbin thread in the middle of a long line of stitching! (The next level up has an alarm that lets you know when you’re about to run out of thread – but I wasn’t willing to pay extra for that.)

It’s got a lot of general features that I really love too – not specific to quilting:

  • It’s quiet (for a sewing machine) and doesn’t shake the table too much.
  • It’s easy to change the needle and the feet.
  • It has a nice big slide-on table (not shown in the photo).
  • I don’t sew much clothing, but the free arm is great for sewing softie heads. (Most people use it for hemming pants and sleeves.)
  • It’s got a good strong light.
  • The controls are easy to use. (Though – honestly – it has a LOT of features that I never use.)
  • It handles any fabric I throw at it with no problems.

It does NOT have the built-in Bernina Stitch Regulator. I’ve tried it and think it’s pretty awesome, but I don’t do free motion quilting so I didn’t want to spring for that expense. I might try free motion in the future, though, so I made sure to get a model I could add that to at a later date.

My advice if you’re shopping for a machine is to test sew – al LOT. Do not be afraid to take up the people’s time at the sewing machine store! It’s a big investment and you should make sure you’re getting something that will work for you.

Bring in swatches of any specialty fabrics you like to sew with and make sure the machine you’re considering can handle them. I’ve heard several reports of Brother machines simply not feeding cuddle fleece through. We think maybe their feed dogs are less grippy than other brands? I LOVE using cuddle fleece for quilt backs so that would be a deal breaker for me – but it might not matter at all to you.

My last bit of advice is to ask other sewists. Nobody can recommend one machine above all others, but we can all tell you what we like and don’t like about what we use. The Shiny Happy People group is a great resource and I’ve seen many helpful discussions of different machines there. Hop in and ask about a machine you’re considering!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

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Applique with Prints – Tips for Color Choices

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

When I showed the lovely fabrics I was planning to use for this free receiving blanket pattern, a couple of people said they were eager to see how I used the prints, since I usually stick to solids and near-solids.

The reason I usually stick with solids and near-solids is because they’re so much easier to work with! Especially for applique where you don’t want the design to get lost in the background fabric. It’s soooo easy to end up with a block that you’re not happy with!

So – here’s the fabric.

Into the Woods fabric collection from Michael Miller Fabrics

It’s the Into the Woods collection from Michael Miller Fabrics, available here at Hawthorne Threads.

Gorgeous, right? Especially that larger scale print with the foxes and foliage.

But that’s exactly the print I didn’t want to use for my background. I used it for the back of the receiving blanket instead.

Why?

Because it contained all the colors I wanted to use in my applique fox face.

To show you why that would be a problem, I cut out a wonky little oval from the main fox color and laid it on that pretty fabric.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

You can see the oval just fine, right?

But your brain is actually kind of fighting to see the oval. Your brain wants to merge all the same colors into one shape, so it actually sees a shape like this.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

See?

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

(This tendency is what makes it so much fun to play with negative space in traditional quilt designs. Your brain wants to merge those spaces together into new shapes.)

Again – you can still see the oval. It’s just that you’re having to overcome your brain’s natural tendency to see something else, and that will make for a less successful design overall.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use fun prints. It just means you have to pick your background very carefully. Here’s what I ended up choosing.

Applique with Prints - Tips for Color Choices from Shiny Happy World

That pretty floral I used in the background has dark blue, light blue, and green. No orange or gold or white – the colors in the fox applique. The green and gold are awfully similar – but ultimately I decided they were different enough for the combination to work.

And I still got that pretty fox and foliage print in there – just on the back of the blanket where it wouldn’t muddle the applique. ๐Ÿ™‚

These color lessons apply to more than applique. Think about embroidering on a printed fabric, or using a print for a softie, or even a variegated yarn for a crochet amigurumi – the same color “rules” apply.

Want to learn more about how I work with color and some of the rules I follow? This post has lots of info.

And this post from Stacey has lots of good info about classic color combinations.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

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Work with What You Have

Work with what you have - from Shiny Happy World

Sometimes working with limitations leads to awesome results – creative choices you wouldn’t have made if you had unlimited access to supplies.

Here’s one of my favorite examples.

red quilt with wonky yellow squares and one lavender square

Many years ago I designed this quilt for a book called Simple Contemporary Quilts. I had already made a smaller, lap-sized version for myself, and that’s what I sent in for my pitch. They loved it and accepted it, but wanted a larger version for the book.

Here’s the thing – the smaller version was all yellow squares.

When I made the larger version I miscounted the yellow squares and ended up one short when it was time to sew the blocks all together.

And I was out of the mustard yellow fabrics.

And I was on a deadline.

I didn’t have time to go out and try to find more of the same yellow fabrics – so I decided to work with what I had. I made the last square lavender and LOVED IT. In fact, I think that lavender square is what makes this quilt.

(Luckily the editor of the book agreed.)

Give it a try sometimes. Make a small project using only what you already have on hand. Or work with what you have to solve a problem that crops up in the middle of a crafty project.

I’ve been trying to play around with lettering this year, and one of my goals is to make something new every week. I naturally gravitate toward stitchy letters, but this week I had no time. What I did have was an iPad, some patterns I had already created, and about an hour. Here’s the result – and I learned some new skills in the app (Procreate) I’m trying to teach myself.

Working with what you have doesn’t always result in a masterpiece – but it almost always pushes me to try something new. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

How to Make a DIY Cutting Table

tall table with cube storage underneath

I love my new cutting table!

I cut a lot of fabric for bundles, so I really needed a large table at the right height for working while standing. Standing for hours at a dining table height surface will kill your back!

I used to have some good storage shelves that worked, but the bottoms of the legs got mangled in the move. The exact shelves weren’t made anymore (and the new version was much flimsier) so I needed to find something totally new.

I posted in the Shiny Happy People group to see what solutions other people had come up with and I got So Much Good Information! Click here to hop right to that post and all the amazing comments.

I liked the look of an Ikea Kallax hack, but the height wasn’t right for me standing. I was going to go for kitchen base cabinets with a laminate top – but that was way (WAY) out of my price range. So I was walking around Lowe’s to see if there was anything that might work, and I stumbled across Cubicals from ClosetMaid.

They’re similar in look to the Kallax pieces from Ikea (though admittedly not as sturdy-looking) but the size is different. A piece 3 cubes tall was just the right height for me standing – and they made that configuration!

So here’s what I used.

  • 2 – 9 cube (3×3) pieces
  • 4 – 6 cube (3×2) pieces
  • 1 – 3 ft. x 6 ft. sheet of medium density fiberboard (you’ll need to buy a 4×8 sheet, but you can ask the folks at Lowe’s to cut it down to size for you)
  • 1 piece of trim 1 1/2 inches wide x 3 feet long x 3/8 inch thick (optional – for cutting guide)
  • 2 elevator bolts to hold the cutting guide in place (optional)

Assemble all the Cubicals cabinets.

Stand them in a rectangle with the cubes facing out. The two 3×3 cabinets are on the ends. There are two 2×3 cabinets (standing tall, not wide) on each side between each of the end cabinets. There’s some empty space in the middle.

Get everything lined up neatly – exactly where you want it because this is NOT movable) and set the big MDF sheet on top. Drilling up from underneath the table (up through the top of the cabinets) screw the table top into place. We used 1 inch wood screws and put some tape on the drill bit to make sure we didn’t drill all the way through to the top of the table.

That’s my husband – bestselling author Alan Gratz – helping me attach the table top. ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s pretty much it – except for a special feature I added to the top for cutting fabric bundles. I don’t know how many of you will need this feature – but you can see it in action in this video.

I sanded the sides and just barely rounded the top edge, and added several coats of pretty purple paint. Those colorful fabric drawers that fit right in the cubes are fun – but Lowe’s doesn’t carry many colors. You can find a bigger selection at Target.

One more thing. They make Cubicals with two different size cubes. These are the smaller ones (each cube is 11 inches). The cabinets with the larger cubes look and feel more sturdy (and more polished), but they won’t work for a table like this because they’ll end up way too tall for most humans. These smaller cubes feel a little less sturdy until they’re all assembled and now it seems pretty super strong.

Make sure you’re getting the right size. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have fun!

Best,
Wendi