kathy bagioni

Color outside the lines . . .

How to make pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin

Written By: kathybagioni - Nov• 16•11

Your Halloween pumpkin can become your made-from-scratch Thanksgiving pumpkin pie in three easy steps.  Here’s how.

halloween pumpkin for pie

I prefer small sugar pumpkins or the flattened cheese pumpkin types.

  1. Put the washed and dried pumpkin on a sturdy cutting board.  With a large, sharp knife cut through one side.  (If the rind is very thick or hard you may need to tap the back side of the knife with a wooden or rubber mallet.  I saw this tip on a TV cooking program.  It’s an easy, safe way to deal with such a large vegetable.)Cut the pumpkin into large slices, about three inches wide.  Scrape out the inside fiber and seeds with a large soup spoon.  (Save the seeds to toast later for a nutritious snack.)
  2. Place the pumpkin chunks into a roasting pan.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.
  3. Cool and scrape the cooked flesh from the skin of the vegetable.

You now have cooked pumpkin ready to use in your favorite pumpkin pie (or bread, or cake, or muffin, etc.) recipe.  If there is too much to use right away, freeze it in recipe-sized portions.  Cooked pulp freezes well.

pumpkin and squash for pie

Large winter squashes, such as, Blue Hubbard, Turk’s Turban, and even butternut squashes make delicious pumpkin dishes.

This method works well with all winter squashes, with equally tasty results.

A small four pound pumpkin will yield about 2 cups of cooked flesh, just the right amount for my favorite pie recipe . . .

2 cups cooked pumpkin or winter squash flesh

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon tapioca

½ teaspoon salt

1 can evaporated skim milk

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves)

2 large eggs, or ½ cup liquid egg white product

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Combine the pumpkin and milk in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Add sugar, tapioca, salt, spices, and eggs.  Process until well-mixed.  Pour into the pie shell.  Bake at 400 degrees until a knife inserted in the center of pie comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Happy accidents

Written By: kathybagioni - Aug• 14•11

Chance favors the prepared mind.   Louis Pasteur

This acrylic painting was a recent happy accident . . . a definite keeper.

Acrylic paint is my newest medium . . . and my newest learning experience.  I love the color, the way it fills the white space, and the way it blends.  I don’t love the cost of buying new supplies.  Who does?   It should come as no surprise to my friends that I am a “frugal painter”.  I dislike seeing the leftover paints wash down the sink when I clean up.  I try to use them up as much as possible.

To avoid this waste I usually take the leftover paints and spread them across blank sheets of mixed media paper or watercolor paper I keep nearby.  The resulting colored paper I can cut up and use in more collages.

Scraped with a palette knife.

Try some of these suggestions to have fun:

  • Add retarder to the colors on your palette to rejuvenate paint that might have started to dry out.
  • Mist the watercolor paper – LIGHTLY – and watch how the colors flow into each other.
  • Mist the paper and add a very little of the color to make a wash.
  • Use a palette knife to scrape color across the page.
  • Scraped with a credit card across the page.

    Use an old credit card/gift card to scrape colors across the page.  (This is one of my favorite techniques because 140 lb/cold-pressed watercolor paper has such a nice texture.)

  • Use the palette knife or gift card edge to place lines in the wet paint.
  • Use rubber stamps/erasers/thumb prints to leave texture across the wet paint.
  • Misting the page can produce a wash.

Once in a while the result is something I like so much I don’t think I will be cutting it up into little bits for collage.  Happy accidents are gifts from the universe.   Just say “thank you” and enjoy.

This new learning experience is just so much fun!

Hope this helps you . . . enjoy!



Quick tips to sewing hems on jeans

Written By: kathybagioni - Dec• 27•10

An excellent tutorial on how to sew hems on jeans is available here.

I would like to add several suggestions.

In this photo regular default stitching is on the left, slightly elongated stitching is in the center, and triple stitching is shown on the right.

Denim needles or at the very least 90/14 needles are a must. Denim is a tightly woven fabric and hard to sew through with lightweight needles. When you reach very dense areas, such as, the multiple layers found at the seams you will need to slow down. Rotating the handwheel of your machine to pierce the fabric will save your sewing machine’s motor, your needles, and your nerves. You may need to advance the machine stitch by stitch across this very dense area. After you pass it you can continue sewing as normal.

Denim needles are also available as double needles. The caveat about slowing down goes double for these needles. :):)

Thread color is easily matched to the topstitching thread on the existing pants. But beware. Each pair of jeans is slightly different. Even the same manufacturer can have slightly different thread colors. Just check it out with each new pair of jeans. Normal sewing thread is just fine to use.

Select a slightly longer stitch length than the normal default. This allows you to more closely approximate the existing stitching.

Even better, use the triple stitch function on your machine. Most machines have this stitch under “utility stitches”. It also can be elongated slightly. This combination of matching thread color + elongated stitch length + utility stitch makes a very effective hemstitch on your altered jeans.

Finally, sewing over thick seams is always a problem. If the presser foot is not kept parallel to the bed of the machine you can risk breaking a needle. I can verify this by experience all too well. 🙁 There is a little accessory called a Button Clearance Foot. Look for Husqvarna Part No. 41 11 732 01 or 41 31 056 01. Most sewing machine stores can get this for you. It slips under the presser foot before or after it reaches the seam and raises the foot. This allows the machine to continue sewing safely and with the same stitch length. It’s one of the handiest little tools in my sewing drawer.

View the tutorial I mentioned here and consider the additional comments I have posted. In no time you will turn out hemmed jeans that even the fussiest person will be happy to wear.

Serger thread works well for many uses, but not all

Written By: kathybagioni - Sep• 25•10

Serger thread can be a boon for the sewer, and not just for serging.

Serger thread or cone thread (because it comes wound on cone-like spools, of course) is a thinner, two ply thread meant for use in home sergers. It has only two strands of thread wound together unlike the more common three-ply thread used for every day sewing. As a result the thread is thinner. It is also wound in one direction and other threads are wound in the other. (Don’t ask me which way, this confuses me. Supposedly this affects the way it comes off the spool but I never seem to see the difference.)

It is also a strong, polyester thread. Originally meant for high speed machines it stands up well to my sewing.

And it seems to have less lint than some of the threads out there. It is not lint-free, no thread really is. This saves time on cleaning out your machine, especially the bobbin area. Please tell me you are cleaning out your machine regularly!

I do actually use it for serging. My serger uses up thread at a fantastic rate and I buy in multiples, rarely one cone at a time. And BTW, if you are doing one project in a funky color, you don’t have to buy FOUR cones. Buy two for the loopers and wind off bobbins of this color to use for the needle threads. A bobbin’s worth of thread is usually enough for a garment or a couple of throw pillows or a child’s Halloween costume.

Or try color blending. Good old gray, in light, medium, or dark usually blends well with other colors. Use your matching color thread in the needle threads. Try this on scraps to see if you like the effect. I stock up on grays whenever I can.

But I also use serger thread in my regular sewing machine.

Warning: I do NOT piece quilts with it. Because it is a strong thread over time it can actually damage fine cotton fibers. There is an old adage,”Never use a thread stronger than your fabric.” Well, maybe not that old. Though my kids will say, if I say it, it has to be old! The saying is try, the one about the thread, not my kids’. Strong polyester thread can act as a saw and cut throw weaker cotton threads.

However, I do use it for appliqué, just not in the top of my machine. I like serger thread as the bobbin thread when doing machine appliqué. Because of the wide range of colors I can usually find a color that goes with the top thread. This reduces show through if my tension isn’t exactly right. And the lighter weight two ply makes great bobbin thread in my sewing machine.

But, I only use it as bobbin thread occasionally in my embroidery machine and only when the embroidery will be seen on both sides, such as, on towels. I like to embroider fun towels for the different holidays. Winding off embroidery threads to use in the bobbins doesn’t work well for me. Probably that cross winding directional thing about thread! Using a colored serger thread for the back side embroidery does work. This thread doesn’t have the same sheen as pretty rayon or polyester embroidery threads but the color on the underneath of your project works well. The lighter weight is not quite as thin as regular embroidery bobbin thread but it’s close.

And, serger thread makes great basting thread. Yes, I sometimes still baste. Sometimes you just have to. The thread is stronger than regular sewing thread and the thin ply pulls out more easily when pulling your basting stitches. Be careful and use a contrasting thread that shows well on your fashion fabric but don’t go crazy. I usually use white or light gray. Never use something like red or black! You can leave lint and dye behind. Ask me how I know.

So, I hope you will give serger thread a try, even if you don’t own a serger.

Copyright Info for Artists

Written By: kathybagioni - Jul• 24•10

A member of a mailing I read just posted this link to the Journal of Biocommunication special issue about copyright and its protection for artists.   This is a publication that serves the medical illustration community.   But don’t worry.   Copyright issues cross all mediums, including textile, of course.  

From the publisher’s comments: “Our current SPECIAL ISSUE focuses on aspects of artists’ rights, and broadly covers subjects of illustrators’ rights during the late 1800s. We also include articles that discuss more recent issues surrounding existing copyright law, copyright registration, artists’ rights, and the current U.S. Orphan Works legislation.”

Copyright protection no longer consists of mailing a copy of your last work to your home in a sealed envelope.   Make sure to read the article Perfect and Strengthen Your Copyrights  by Cynthia Turner.

“Copyright is the law of authorship and grants a body of exclusive rights to visual authors. This paper presents a survey of the meaning, scope and profound validity of copyright, and notes some of the increasing pressures wrought by the digitization of the world’s creative works and the rise of anti-copyright advocates. Although proposed orphan works legislation would override the protections afforded by registration, it remains a prudent choice for artists under current law. A brief guide to registering and searching the new eCO (electronic Copyright Office) assists visual authors with the online registration process and monitoring of their public records.”

and continues on to explain,

“Copyright is the law of authorship. It is quite simply a visual author’s exclusive right to make copies of his or her work, authorize others to make copies, and stop those who make unauthorized copies. Copyright has also come to mean the body of exclusive rights granted by law to visual authors for protection of their work.

. . .

Copyright automatically protects an original work of authorship the moment you fix an idea in a tangible medium of expression. The ownership of that copyright automatically vests with you: an author’s right is based upon the act of creation itself. The copyright confers a specific set of exclusive rights to you, and to others authorized by you, to 1) reproduce the work, 2) prepare derivatives based on the work, 3) distribute the work under your terms, 4) perform the work, or 5) display the work publicly.

. . .

Artists rely on copyright for creative control over their works. Copyright’s protection of original authorship guarantees an artist’s independent voice, now and for posterity. Copyright preserves the integrity of your work, prevents corrupt editions, and protects the privacy of your unpublished works and early drafts.”

Cynthia includes directions in the Appendix to her article on how to register your work for copyright.   

Now, even though my kids will contest it, I did not need copyright protection in the 1800’s but do need it now.   All artists need to be aware of current copyright issues.   This Special Issue of the Journal of Biocommunication is a good resource for all artists.   

I hope this information is useful to you.

Share your story about copyright issues.  
Have you ever had a problem?  
Needed the protection?  
Let us know.  

Determine fabric content with a detective kit

Written By: kathybagioni - May• 22•10

Sometimes fabrics aren’t well-labeled, even in the best of shops. Sometimes I find them in unusual places, like tag sales or consignment shops. I love a good hunt. I’m a fabric omnivore. If the fabric is the color/weight/weave I need for a project I use it. This upsets my purist friends but certainly makes my work . . . uh, distinctive.

Natural fabrics are my preference and I have gotten pretty good at guessing by touch and feel. But sometimes I am stumped. Polyesters are getting better and better. Some no longer feel like hard plastic. Some sweaters made of acrylics are hard to determine by the touch test.

I recently went on a shopping trip to New York City. Preparation included packing some unconventional items . . . my handy dandy fabric content detective kit.

Actually it’s just a disposable lighter or matches and a couple of four inch squares of white muslin in a sandwich bag. If a particular fabric is not well labeled or store help cannot answer my questions, I ask for a snippet. It’s an infrequent request and most sales staff are happy to help. That’s most . . . not all sales staff. Let’s just say the store salesman in the shop in New York City was having a cranky day. He looked at me as if I had two heads and then completely ignored me, not answering “yes” or “no” to my request for a swatch. You can’t win ‘em all.

Take your hard won fabric snip and step outside. This is a quick test to see if the sample is a natural fabric, a manmade fabric or a blend. Burn a bit of the corner of the fabric. Put out the flame almost immediately. You only need a bit of a burn for your observations not a conflagration big enough to roast marshmallows. And, let’s think. Standing on a street corner in NYC trying to light fabric afire . . . not good.

How does the fabric burn?
• Sputtering and hard to light, wool resists flame and self-extinguishes immediately when the flame source is removed.
Silk also burns slowly. Both smell like burning hair or feathers.
Cotton and linen burns slowly and steadily and smells of burning leaves.
Polyester sputters and leaves plastic behind. It smells sweet and puts off black smoke.
What does the ash tell you? Natural fabrics turn to black or gray powder when touched. The polyester leaves hard shiny beads behind.


Then it is time to see if the fabric sheds dye. Does the dye from the fabric rub off on other fabrics it comes into contact with? This is called crocking and can be a real problem. If the crocking is severe the fabric will leave color on anything it rubs against . . . other fabrics, upholstery, or even human skin, particularly when the weather is hot and humid. Take one of the muslin squares and rub the fabric in question. Does the color from the fabric rub off on the muslin? How easily? Prewashing fabrics does help this problem but often this fabric will looked faded after a trip through the machine. Crocking means a lot of surface dyes and sizing. When this is removed your fabric can look worn and tired. I avoid fabrics with a severe crocking problem. They are almost always lots of trouble. Even a bargain basement price can’t overcome really awful fabric problems.
I also have a roll up tape measure with me. I know the stores will lend you one but I like having my own. It’s handy to measure the repeat in a fabric or the size of a particular motif. I once got home with a gorgeous, wild fabric intended for a stack and whack-type quilt. Unfortunately the motifs I intended to use would have necessitated a ten foot square quilt. Waaaay to big for the kid’s quilt I had intended. Now I measure.
Some quilters take reducing glasses with them and even colored plastic value finders. I don’t need to. I am horribly nearsighted. I just take off my glasses. Instantly everything becomes blurry and the fabrics in question are reduced to color values. Need a handy way to audition fabrics for a project? Just squint.
Don’t worry squinting is a lot easier to do in a crowded fabric store than asking for swatches. Even cranky sales people feel obliged to help a “mature” shopper like me when she is squinting hard at the fabric bolts and bumping into things. I don’t mention it’s a test. And I let them carry the bolts I choose.
Enjoy the hunt.
Now, I have a question.
Where was the most unusual place you shopped for or discovered a great fabric find?
Let me know.

An easy way to make your own oversize French Curve

Written By: kathybagioni - Mar• 11•10

French curves come in all sizes but not big enough for this project. A large design like the one I am currently working on is almost all curves. The best way to smooth them out is to use a French curve. Remember how great it worked on the small drawing? I make my own French curves in just the size I need. An oversize curve works well on the actual size drawing.

Follow these easy steps to make a curve in a size that fits your project.

Trace the French curve on a piece of paper with a Sharpie pen or a Pigma pen. You need a fine, dense black line.

Scan the image into your computer. I use the scanner software that came with my printer. Import the scanned image into a simple drawing program. Windows-based computers come with a program, called Paint. Look for it under the “Accessories” tab. Nothing fancy here, just functional.

Decide how large you need a French curve. I find a 20 inch long curve and a 30 inch long curve good sizes to work with. They are large enough to give smooth, graceful curves, fit my designs nicely, and are easy to make. They easily fit on a piece of foam core or poster board.

Simple algebra or just using a proportional scale tells you how much to increase the drawings. Increase the original 9 inch drawing by 222% to get a 20 inch curve. Just round it to 220%. Increase by 335% to get a 30 inch curve. Round it to 340%.

Print out the pages and tape them together.

Transfer the drawing to a large piece of foam core board Use a permanent marker. Don’t use markers that run in water or graphite or chalky type pencils. Avoid anything that can brush off the paper later onto pattern pieces or fabric.

Cut out using a utility knife. Use a new, sharp blade and let the knife do the work. If you hold the knife with a death grip and only use your forearms and wrists you will soon hurt. A lot. The tension will stiffen your back and shoulders. What’s more, the curves will not be smooth. Relax. Use your whole body to make the cuts. Draw the knife towards you in long, slow motion. The lines curve gently. The curves are smoother.


Transfer the drawing to a large piece of poster board. Again, you can cut out the curve using a utility knife or a sharp pair of paper cutting scissors. Remember: When using scissors, turn the piece being cut. Don’t move the scissors. This helps make for a smoother cut.

You now have an oversized French curve to aid you in finalizing your design.

What size French curve worked best for your project?

Felted wool – a great fabric for quilting and banners

Written By: kathybagioni - Feb• 26•10

A friend recently asked me if I still use felted wool.
The answer is a resounding, “YES”.

I still use it, search for wool for it in suitable colors (always on the lookout for great greens BTW), and felt it.

It is my fabric of choice for applique motifs. I never use craft felt on banners. Felted wool is so much better.

The following directions are from a handout I gave to students who took my Penny Rugg classes.


How to use Felted Wool

Wool yardage or sweaters can be abused in the washing machine. They become a wool product that lends itself beautifully to applique. (Boiled wool or European loden-type wool is a controlled version of what we attempt at home.) It produces a dense, thick, moisture-resistant fabric. It does not ravel easily. It adds a new dimension to quilts, wearables or home dec projects.

It is a thicker fabric. And the finished project can be stiff and heavy. It does not drape well. Great for banners but not good for garments! Try to minimize seams in vests, coats or jackets. Seam allowances can be difficult to turn. Because of this I usually work on a foundation fabric and butt edges of felted wool if possible. Use bound edges for finishing or use linings that turn under.

How to full wool

Select wool yardage, wool clothing, or sweaters that are NOT labeled “Washable wool”. (This finishing technique helps the article resist abuse. It’s good new for consumers but bad news for our purposes.) Blends can only be use if the fabric content is at least 80% wool. The resulting textures of blends can be somewhat bumpy as the fibers may shrink at different rates.

Prepare the fabric
Repair small moth holes, tears, etc, with matching colored thread.
Large holes and tears should be marked with different colored thread.
Remove buttons, stay-stitching, interfacings, collars, waistbands, etc.
Cut into large, flat pieces.
Cut sleeves open to lay flat. Cut off cuffs to use elsewhere.
Fair Isle sweaters have carrying yarns on the reverse side. Clip them if they are longer than ½ inch.
Clip selvedges on new yardage.

The felting/fulling process:
Use small loads. Like colors together.
Use the longest, hottest wash cycle.
Add a small amount of detergent. NO BLEACH or bleach products.
Check several times during the cycle to shake out pieces and redistribute them.
Add hot water if necessary to keep warm.
Rinse in cold water only , no softeners/conditioners.
If you dry in the dryer, clean out the lint trap several times.
Press flat with a steam iron.

This process produces a lot of lint. Clean out your washing machine and dryer.
If you dry in the dryer, clean out the lint trap several times.
Press flat with a steam iron.


Try felting some wool and see how it works in your projects.