How to Pack Softly

One of the mysteries of travel is how to pack a suitcase. For me, there are three big concerns: weight, keeping things dry, and packing so nothing breaks while en route. My lightweight cloth suitcase with wheels is my go-to companion on trips. And having seen my luggage sitting on the tarmac in a heavy rainstorm, I know that everything in my suitcase must be in a plastic bag.

And then there is breakage. In the past my hand-dyed threads were displayed in plastic trays at a venue. And often I returned with the plastic trays cracked or broken by the airline baggage system. But finally I came up with a soft, lightweight, non-breakable solution- fabric trays.

How to Make a Quick Fabric Tray

  • Choose an old quilt that is hankering for a new life. The quilts I’m using measure about 20 inches by 20 inches.
  • Fold the quilt with the right sides together at each corner. Stitch across the folded quilt at about 3 inches from where the sides meet to the fold.
  • You may want to use the walking foot on your machine.
  • Roll the corner flaps back to reveal the pretty quilt interior.
  • Fill the fabric trays with beautiful hand-dyed threads.
  • Enjoy your flight!

Protect Your Mat from Decorative Blades

Are you using decorative blades in your rotary cutters? Decorative blades make wonderful embellished edges for your fused art quilts. They come in wave, scallop, and, my favorite, the delightful pinking blade

But beware! Decorative blades can damage your cutting mats. Here you see a cutting mat on the right that has been scored by decorative blades. See how the decorative blades have gouged into the mat?

When you cut with a decorative blade you have to push a little harder to cut cleanly into the fabric. This means the blade will etch into the mat and mess up your grid lines.

Save the grid! Flip that mat over and cut your fabric on the wrong side of the mat. You’ll save your mat and you can use a pinking blade to create fun fabric edges like these.

Check out how I’ve used the pinking blade to create this decorative fused binding here.

Stitch Tip #12: What Knot to Do

Don’t be like me.

I have a bad habit of knotting the end of the thread before stitching. See how that light blue thread has caught on the yellow knot? This is bad!

I hadn’t realized that there was a giant loop of thread hanging off the back of the design until much later. That loop means the top threads can be pulled to the front of the design. I don’t pretend to be the neatest stitcher in the world and know that this will be covered up by a backing fabric. But my bad habit is shoddy workmanship.

This is how to best begin your threads. Take a few back stitches into the wrong side of the fabric. In this case I’m using felt so you won’t see the stitches on the right side of the fabric.

To end a thread, stitch into the previous stitches on the back of the design. Then clip both the ending thread and the tail of thread at the beginning of your stitches close to the fabric.

This is one of many stitch tips from Playful Free-Form Embroidery. Tips all learned the hard way!