Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lanterns Bloom #2 - Finished!

 The "leftover" quilt, Lanterns Bloom #2 is officially finished!
1.  Patches

2.  Cut apart, rotate, and put back together.
3.  Add borders, backing, and batting.  Quilt.  Bind. 

 4.  Done!
5.  Wrap yourself up and enjoy.

Girls Night Out

Tonight my friend Charlotte, who is a Stampin' Up demonstrator, hosted our first workshop since the new catty came out.  Fun!  She had such great ideas that I just had to share.  I honestly haven't stamped since I cleaned up my stamping area when my kids came to visit in April.  Why?  Maybe because my stamping area looked so tidy I just couldn't bear to mess it up?

Here is the first card we made.  Very easy.  It used  the new Greehouse Gala DSP and the Big Shot Square Lattice embossing folder.  (The Big Shot sure makes embossing easy - how did we ever manage with a brass plate and a stylus?  That probably explains why I didn't do much of it!)  The card is very simple, but nice.  Obviously, I need to cut the ribbon, but overall, I think, a lovely card.  I was using glue, which I almost never do, but I forgot to take my tape runner, and so beggars can't be choosers, you know?  Anyway, I didn't really realize how fast the glue would dry when the two layers were put together, so I wasn't able to adjust the top flower when I realized it was a little off.  Oh well.  Something to remember for next time.

My second card didn't turn out as well as I would have liked.  It was a fussy, vintage card, and Charlotte's sample was beautiful.  Mine suffered from inexpertly applied 2-way glue and an attempt to compensate with too much glitter, which meant it didn't photograph well at all.  Probably just as well.

The third card was adorable and elegant at the same time.  How does that happen?  I loved the stamp set, and the inside sentiment, "If you are what you eat, eat something cute," was fun.  The card used another Big Shot texture folder called Elegant Lines and the scallop punch.  Lots of fun.  I love the SU! rhinestones.  They are the best ones I have used, and really jazz up your card.  Love the way they add sparkle.  We also tried out the new Smooch pearlized accent ink.  This product is new, and adds just a touch of spice and interest.

I hadn't realized until I decided to do this how difficult it is to photograph these cards.  The detail just doesn't come through very well in the photo.  I actually did these with the camera, and not with my phone, and I still took multiple shots, of which these are the best.  The difficulty may be in my technique, of course.  My photography has never been my most expert hobby.

The last card we made also used some of the new SU!  Elegant Soiree DSP and the adorable owl punch.  The owl was cute, but wasn't on my "must have" list until I did a Halloween blog hop on Stampin' Addicts recently and saw all the ways it was used - everything from flower vases to witch's cauldrons.  I really think I NEED this punch.

DSP makes putting a card together so easy. Add a little ribbon and some kind of focal point, and you have a card.  It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.

I really need to get back into stamping again.  It is always a lot of fun to meet with other ladies and create something fun and attractive.

And when I got home, guess what???  A Stampin' Addicts blog hop using some great new products from the Holiday mini.  Tonight was Stamping Heaven!

Charlotte had a ton of samples on her kitchen counter when we arrived.  At snack time, I took a moment to take some photos of them.  Great ideas for my next stamping adventure.  (These were photographed with my phone off her kitchen counter, but they do show the main elements of the cards.) 

Love the daisy embossing!
Maybe just a little monochromatic, but cute!
I'm sure I have a stamp like this around somewhere.  Love the oval punch!

Love the flowers.  Pink and green is always classy!
More DSP!  An idea I will use, I think!
This one was truly wonderful in person.  The photo doesn't do it justice at all.

Funny how 3 little images can really make a card!.

And these cards were paper pieced.  Too fun!  Check out Bob the Builder and the guitar!  Who thinks of these things???

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Diamond in the Rough

You wouldn't think so to look at it, but the funnest fabric store in Pensacola has got to be the fabric store with an identity crisis.

First of all, it is, in fact, a compounding pharmacy.  When you walk in, it looks like an old fashioned dime store, with just about anything you can imagine.  A visit to the back of the store finds all of your pharmacy needs, I'm sure.  Their selection of Little Golden Books takes me back to my own childhood. It was the first place I went to buy little Abby-frog those classics  she MUST have, like The Poky Little Puppy, The Saggy, Baggy Elephant, and The Tawny, Scrawny Lion.

But take a left, and then a right, and fabric junkies, Enter Paradise!!  Who would suspect that the back of the store has bolts and bolts and bolts of fabrics from all our favorite designers?  Moda and Michael Miller are two of my favorites so far, but I can't wait to try some of the rest.   It is the only place in Pensacola I have found Moda charm squares, jelly rolls, and fat quarters.  OK, I'm new to these things, but now that I KNOW about them, I have to have them, right?

When my children were little, there used to be nearly a dozen fabric stores in Pensacola.  I have often joked and said that when I went back to work full-time, I stopped sewing, and they all went out of business.  Too sad, but true?  Maybe?  No, I couldn't have kept them all in business by myself....  Could I?

I used to work in Warrington - oh, 25 years ago now - and I shopped at AandE frequently.  But after we moved away, and moved back, I kind of forgot they had such neat stuff.  Then, in 2009, when Beautiful Daughter #2 was looking for some special trims for her prom dress that the ordinary fabric store didn't have, a lady at the cutting counter suggested we try AandE.  And I had one of those, "You Dummy!" moments.  Of course!  I knew about it all along, and just forgot.  And so we drove across town and they had exactly what she wanted.  And it was on sale, even.  And I was hooked.

But I really didn't appreciate just what a treasure it was until Beautiful Daughter #1 turned me on to how much fun designer fabric can be.  And so I have to wander by once or twice a week on my lunch hour or on the way home from work.  I browse.  I touch.  I imagine.  Too often, I succumb to the subtle charms of these beautiful fabrics.  Like I need more fabric.  But I need to feed my addiction.  Still, it is an innocent enough habit, I suppose.

And the ladies there are so nice.  And (I'm not sure this is a good thing) they remember me.  The other day, a lady and her daughter were buying some of the Michael Miller Lanterns Bloom collection, and when the lady at the counter saw me, she said, "Here's a lady that has already made that quilt," and so I stopped and chatted, and gave them the benefit of my experience (and told them that the pattern is on Michael Miller's website and they don't need to reinvent the wheel, like I did).  Then, when I was in there today after work, the manager of the fabric department told me I should have been there earlier - that they had some quilters come in with "show and tell", and I would have loved it.

And I would have, too.

I plan to spend the weekend finishing projects.  Maybe I'll have some time Monday to do some "show and tell" of my own!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I thought I would get more done this weekend.  I have 6 quilts in various stages of completion and a ton of clothing I would like to sit down and sew, but this summer bug has been a drain on my energy.  Friday, I stayed home, but accomplished nothing creative, although I did sleep a lot.  Yesterday, I sewed the S's and Z's for my Avignon Picnic blocks from Moda Bake Shop (you can link to it here).  I ended up with 18 squares, which really isn't enough, so Beautiful Daughter #1 said she would bring me another pack of charm squares when we see each other in Seattle in September.  (Sounds like a song, doesn't it?)  The sample quilt actually has 64 squares, but I think 36 will make a nice small quilt.  Maybe a baby quilt or a cuddling up in front of the TV quilt.  We'll see.

Oh - and I left the house long enough yesterday to go to the ordinary fabric store (aka JoAnn's) because they had the batting I like on sale and thread 50% off.  I have been running out of thread like crazy.  I bought a ton of thread when I was sewing a lot (before I went back to work full-time), but there is not much of that left.   It's the little things that often drive us crazy, like running out of the right color of thread in the middle of a project.  Coats and Clarks at 50% off is a pretty sweet deal, I think.

The only other thing I did this weekend was sort my scraps.  I was looking for replacement pieces for the double-sided duvet cover that is about to become 2 quilts (see my post on un-serging) so I removed the squares with the buttonholes, hence their need to be replaced..  It was a great opportunity to sort my scraps.  Wow!  Did that bring back memories.  It seems, though, that this scrap bag is just the scraps from the last couple of years.  Wonder where the older ones are?  Think of the memories I will have when I find THOSE!

Happy quilting!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Major Surgery

Well, it's done.  At least the squares are dissected and put back together.  The hardest part was making the first incision.  I felt like I was doing major surgery - cutting into vital organs or something!  (And to think I thought I could be a doctor!)

The second hardest part was arranging the completed squares.  Do I want a square quilt or a twin?  Do I want the aqua squares all in a row or spread around?  Do I like the brown at all?  All this angst!!  But amid the coughing (I guess it's a summer bug) and the company (Handsome Son is visiting from Down South) it is done.  I hope to add the borders and backing and get it quilted this weekend, but for now, I have most of a quilt top.

I think I like it!  Maybe.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Miracle of Miracles!

I cleaned the sewing room yesterday.  This may not seem like a major accomplishment, but it is sad to say I was ashamed that it had gotten so messy.  And messy is not a good thing in such a small space. 

My room is always a challenge.  It is 8 ft. by 8 ft.  It has 4 doorways.  Wonderful Husband put in cupboards for me several years ago, but they are full of fabrics (imagine that!), patterns, other craft supplies, and books.  My stash was encroaching on what little floor space there is as well as the top of my only real work surface.  It was simply intolerable.  I didn't take a before picture.  Too embarrassing!

And, we were having company for dinner.  Always a great motivator for me.

Anyway, the fabric is all neatly stashed (laundry baskets are SO useful), the thread is all on its little thread keeper posts, and the notions are tucked neatly in their drawers. And it still looks messy.  Don't try to imagine what it looked like before.  Sadly, it doesn't get any better than this.

I think that's a good thing!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Anniversary

Today would have been my parents' 66th wedding anniversary.  Amazing!  Here is their wedding photo.  Their story is unique, but perhaps not so much considering it was war-time.  My mom graduated high school in 1943 and wanted to do something to help the war effort.  All alone, she moved from Eastern Washington to Bremerton, and got a job working graveyard shift at the Navy Yard.  Pretty brave for an 18 year-old country girl. (Of course, she had been working since she was 13, sometimes 2 or 3 jobs, so I guess it was totally in character.)

Her boss was Doris Waggoner, a single mom, who lived with her parents.  Doris befriended my mom and took her home for Sunday dinners and family events.  My grandfather was so impressed with my mom he told her he wanted her to marry one of his sons - and he didn't care which one!

My dad and my uncle were both in the Army - as were most of the young men in 1944. My dad was the first one to come home on leave.  Doris asked him if he wanted to go on a double date, and he said yes.  That was Monday.  Tuesday night, he came into my grandmother's room and told her he had met the woman he was going to marry.  Saturday morning, they took the ferry to Seattle to "meet the parents" and missed the ferry home.  They arrived an hour late to find all their guests waiting at the church.

They met on Monday and married on Saturday.

Once I asked my dad about it, considering that if I had tried such a stunt, I would have been disowned.  My dad said, "Honey, there was a war on.  I didn't have time to go a-courting."

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leftovers, Again?

So, it is clear that I came to blogging reluctantly.  I could never imagine it as my thing.  But I am beginning to see that this is a very exciting and useful tool.  My daughter uses her blog to help those of us who are far away (too far, durn it!) keep up with baby Abby.  Here is her latest photo off her mommy's blog!  (Isn't she a cutie?) So even though I am not there, I can see her change and learn new things every day.  I am grateful for the technology that keeps us close, even though we are 2000 miles apart.  For Christmas last year, I received a camera for the computer.  Gotta learn how to use it.  Sadly, my attempts so far have been unsuccessful.  Maybe that will be my project for Handsome Son when he comes home this weekend

Another thing I am beginning to love about the internet is learning new things.  Almost anything you want to know is right here at the click of a few keystrokes.  It is so cool to need to know something, or be reminded of something, and find the answer right away. 

People post the coolest things on their blogs.  For example, Beautiful Daughter #2 wanted me to put an invisible zipper in a dress I was making for her, and I was reluctant.  Hadn't done it in awhile. And regular zippers are so easy.  But she insisted.  And here online, there is the best invisible zipper tutorial, just for the clicking.  You can find the tutorial here.  Thank you, yaiAnn.  And quilt patterns, ideas, tutorials, tips, creativity - all right here with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse.  This is so cool.  Something we never even imagined when I was a child.

So yesterday, I mentioned that I had leftovers.  This morning, before work, I sewed them up into 9-patch squares.  I have been thinking about  doing a Disappearing 9-patch with these.  What do you think?  Once they are cut, it is a done deal.  But I think it will be OK.  I think I will like it.  There is a cool tutorial here.  And here.  And there are even some video tutorials.   Should be easy - once I make the first cut.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Tonight, Wonderful Husband and I were talking and he commented that there isn't much on TV on Wednesday nights.  My response was, "Only leftovers."  He said, "You mean re-runs?"  And I said, "I prefer to call them leftovers.  They're not as tasty as the first time, but they can be OK."

Rather than watch TV though, I thought I would play with my fabric.  Which brings me to my topic.  On Sunday, I blogged about empty nesting and Arielle's new quilt.  She gained some new skills, I think, and I will admit that she challenged mine.  The quilt used just about every scrap of fabric we had bought for the project - or so I thought.  But as I was rummaging around in the sewing room on Monday, I came across 40 leftover blocks from the tree quilt.  Forty!  Not enough for a whole quilt, but that's just too many to waste.  So earlier this week I headed over to the drug store - uh, I mean fabric store - and bought 3 6-inch width-of-fabric strips and enough yardage to do a border from the Michael Miller Lantern Blooms and Poppy Collections.  I now have 81 squares, arranged in groups of 9.  I'm thinking about a Disappearing 9-patch.  I've never done one before.  Should be interesting to see how it turns out.

It's Mother's Day!

Well, technically, Mother's Day falls in May, not August, so let me explain.  This year for Mother's Day, Wonderful Husband was away visiting my Beautiful Daughters, and came home Mother's Day afternoon.  For weeks the children had been telling me that Dad and the kiddos had a great gift planned and they were SO excited.  So when Wonderful Husband's plane arrived on Mother's Day afternoon, he took me to dinner and presented me with a card, inside which was my gift - the password for my very own 1 year membership to

 That evening, I signed on - and I was hooked.  I have been looking for my Great Grandfather Wheeler since 1975.  My Grandfather died when I was 5, and my Grandmother really couldn't remember very much about his father.  She told me what she knew, but it never got me very far.  Later, my dad told me that he had lived with his Grandfather, Martin Luther Wheeler, in Cody, WY when he was young.  In fact, he said, he was called "Garth" because having two "Martins" in the house was just too confusing.  I had tried an ancestry 2 week trial membership, and had a few successes, but GGF Wheeler was not to be found.

So, Mother's Day afternoon, I signed on to, typed in "Martin Luther Wheeler" and THERE HE WAS!  Apparently my Great Grandmother Wheeler died when my Grandfather was about 2, and GGF Wheeler remarried - to a woman with 3 children!  One of them was kind enough to include him in their family.  But wait - there's more. 

Not only was he there, with all his vital statistics, but there was a photo of him with his second wife, Sarah.  You know, he looks a little like my dad.

Anyway, for about the next 6 weeks, I spent every available minute at the computer.  It was ridiculous!  Before Mother's Day, I had about 475 names, painstakingly gathered from microfilm, microfiche (whatever that was) and family records.  Over the next 6 weeks I gathered about 4500 ancestors.  Easy peasy!  Those little leaf thingys are so cool!  You can sign up for your 2 week trial membership here.

I finally realized that most good things are better in moderation (really, I knew that, but we all have to be reminded now and again).  Somehow, my comfortable chair wasn't so comfortable any more.  Maybe it was time to return to some of my other hobbies.

Which brings me to Mother's Day gift #2.  When Manda put Daddy on the plane, she sent him home with a second gift for me.  A charm square pack that I had told her that I liked.  Every day or two, while I have been sitting in that comfortable chair I mentioned, I would take it out and play with it.  I ruffled through the beautiful fabrics and imagined what I was going to do with it.  Yummy.  There is something so comforting about fabric and colors and ideas and imagining...

Last night, I was wandering around the net and traveled to Moda Bake Shop (not for the first time), where I found a beautiful recipe for a quilt, made out of the jelly roll of this very fabric.  I loved it.  Would it work with charm squares?  Yes, I think so.  So now, instead of charm squares, I have a pile of quilt squares. Soon to be a quilt, I hope.

So thank you family, for a wonderful Mother's Day - the kind that lasts awhile.  Very cool.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blocks of Love

This spring, when my daughter and her husband and their daughter visited for the first time in awhile, my beautiful Amanda introduced me to many cool new (to me) things. She expanded my quilt pattern horizons and inspired me to try some new things. She showed me several sewing and quilting blogs I had never visited before. And she introduced me to charm squares, jelly rolls and honey buns (I already knew about fat quarters - so there!)

We had a fun time creating - she made 3 quilt tops and did several projects while she was here. How she managed to do so much, I don't know. (I got to hold beautiful little Abby while she did all that!) A picture of one of the (finished now) quilt tops she made while she was home is here.

Here in Florida, we are no strangers to weather emergencies. After 2004 and 2005, with Hurricanes Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina hitting so close to home, I feel like a veteran weather survivor. So when Manda introduced me to Anna Maria Horner's newest book and blog, I was saddened to see her post on the flooding in her hometown. She, apparently is a woman of action, though, and has created the Rainbow Around the Block quilt project to give folks in her area who lost their homes and possessions a gift of love. I have been intrigued as her children created quilt block drawings and she made quilt patterns from them and shared them on her blog. I have been meaning to sit down and make some quilt blocks, and somehow, I just haven't done it.

But as I was rummaging through my stash the other day, I found some quilt blocks already made - just sitting there. Three blocks. These are left from a quilt I made my grandmother back in 1993. She wanted something sunny and cheerful. Gram lived on a lake and always loved gardening. Although it isn't sunny very often in the Pacific Northwest, the quilt reminded me of a sunny day in Grandma's garden by the lake. I hope the quilt cheered Gram's last years.

The quilt is gone now. And Grandma is gone too. But I still have these blocks. What was I saving them for? No idea. So tomorrow, I am going to package them up and send them to the address on Anna Maria Horner's website. Hopefully, she can use these blocks in her project and someone will know that despite the weather, people do care. I promise, these blocks were made with love.

I think Gram would approve.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Empty Nesting

So this year has been something of a challenge for me, the woman who has been a mom for more years than I wasn't a mom - Beautiful Daughter #1 turned 28 last Saturday.  Beautiful Daughter #1 and her husband and my precious grand-baby live in Utah.  Handsome Son lives in Orlando.  And Beautiful Daughter #2 left in January for college in Idaho.  Honestly, along about mid-winter, I was feeling pretty lost.

But then last Sunday, as I was teaching my Sunday School lesson, we were talking about how the Lord cared for Elijah by having the ravens feed him, and then commanding the widow of Zaraphath to feed him while he was in hiding from King Ahab and Jezebel.  The point was that the Lord loves each one of us individually, knows us by name, and is prepared to help us in the ways we need it most.  Which brought to mind Elder Bednar's talk when he was first called as an Apostle and mentioned that the hymn right before his talk was his favorite, "Did You Think to Pray" and how it comforted him and let him know the Lord was looking out for him and cared about him. He called the phenomenon "The Tender Mercies of the Lord."  As I was reflecting on this subject it struck me what an extraordinary year this has been.  I too have been blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord.  Far from being the lonely year I expected, I have had wonderful opportunities to enjoy my children this year in new ways.

Handsome Son came home for Easter.  It was General Conference weekend, so we didn't have a big Easter dinner.  It was just the 3 of us, but I enjoyed watching conference with him.   And, it allowed me to give him his (finally finished) Christmas gift.  Yes, it's wrinkled, but hey - he's a guy!

Then, in the middle of April, Beautiful Daughter #2 came home for her semester break.  We stayed up late and watched movies, got a pedi, did a little excursion to Destin shopping and talked and talked and talked.  Then at the end of that week, Handsome Son and Beautiful Daughter #1 and her family came home, and we were all together for a weekend.  We went to the beach and took some pictures - ironically the day the oil spill occurred.   Unfortunately, Dear Son-In-Law was the photographer (didn't he do a magnificent job?!) and so wasn't in the photo. 

Beautiful Daughter #1 and Baby Abby got to stay for almost 3 weeks.  We did some girl bonding, some shopping, and some creating while they were here.  Manda made 3 quilt tops, and some other projects.  She introduced me to new things, like charm squares and jelly rolls and honey buns and quilting blogs.  We shopped for fabric at the drug store (which will be the subject of another post someday.)  But mostly I got to hold beautiful baby Abby.

Then, sometime in May, after Wonderful Husband drove Beautiful Daughter #2's car to Idaho and visited Beautiful Daughter #1's family, he came up with a wonderful idea!  We would all go to Yellowstone for July 4th weekend.  Unfortunately, Handsome Son couldn't make it, but the rest of us had such a grand time. 

Then, in mid-July, I got to go visit HS in Orlando.  He took me on a mother-son date to this great Irish restaurant in Downtown Disney, complete with Irish singers and traditional Irish dancers.  And the food was wonderful!  Unfortunately, I am not the photographer DS-I-L is, so we'll just have to use this photo off the Downtown Disney website

We went shopping at one of the outlet malls along I-4, and I took this photo to make the girls drool.  We didn't buy much, but we had a great time.  On the downside, boy was it HOT!

We went back to his apartment for a nap, then to dinner and a movie.  A wonderful, relaxing weekend.

And most recently, Beautiful Daughter #2 came home for her semester break again.  She wanted to make a quilt, and not one to ignore requests from my girls to share my favorite things, we headed off our favorite fabric store (the one that thinks it's a drug store) and looked for some Sandi Henderson fabric to match this oh-so-festive party banner she and her sister made...

Instead, we fell in love with this quilt made from Michael Miller's Lanterns Blooms and Poppy collections:

So we bought the fabric and headed home.  Ari and I cut out the squares, she arranged them on the floor (where else) and she stitched the quilt top that afternoon.

But then the dilemma.  How to make the beautiful tree.  I had to go back to the store and take this photo (should have taken it when I was there the first time.)

Turned out the tree wasn't so bad, but how to do the leaves?  You can't see it in the photo, but they are 3-dimensional.  Very cute, but I had to ponder on that for days.  Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, when you consider my stress level), the clock was ticking, and I didn't have very many days.  In fact, it was Saturday morning and the flight was to leave at 6:30 pm.

I finally drew a leaf on a piece of paper, cut it out, and started stitching.  There were a few false starts, but finally, I had something I could use.  At left is a photo of the quilt top, before leaves, borders and quilting.

 I didn't ever take a photo of the finished quilt.  I thought it turned out pretty well, though.  Ari seems happy with it.  As it happens, we had a thunderstorm blow through just about the time the flight was to leave, so after waiting an hour and a half in the airport, she realized there was no way she could make her connecting flight and she came home.  Good thing.  I finished the quilt while she was at the airport.  Saved me mailing it to her.  And having the extra few hours let me finish the pillow shams, too.  Maybe one day soon she'll send me a photo of the finished product.  Meanwhile, suffice it to say that my kids challenge my skills.

Ironically, as I was surfing the net the evening she left, I found this photo and the downloadable instructions on the Michael Miller Fabrics website.  There is a pattern and instructions for the leaf.

And, as luck would have it, Handsome Son will be home this weekend.

Empty nesting isn't so bad after all.  Wonder what project HS will have for me?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The *Joys* of Un-Serging

Sewing is fun!  Quilting is more fun!  I love putting fabrics and colors together to create something pleasing to the eye and cozy and comfy and snuggly.  I love putting quilt tops together on my serger.  Serging makes quilts go together super fast, and the seams are so - well - tidy.  But inevitably, there comes a time when one must un-serge.  Whether it is because of a sewing mistake, or because (as in this case) I want to take something apart to make a "new" project - every once in awhile, one must rip out all that sturdy, tidy serging.  And that can be a pain in the neck...  and the fingers...  And it can be messy.

So today, I'm taking apart a duvet cover I made my daughter last year for her dorm room, which is no longer useful apparently.  We have decided a) down comforters are too hot in the summer, and b) we're tired of our shoulders getting cold because the duvet slid down to the bottom of the cover, regardless of how many ties we try to use to keep it in place.  Hence, a TON of serging to rip out.

Over the years, I have come up with a method for un-serging that at least works, and is less messy and frustrating than my earlier attempts.  I will say that I only have a 4-thread serger, so I am not certain if this method also applies to 5-thread sergers.  Here is the only article I found on the subject.  So, I will share what works for me.  (If you have a better way, I would love for you to share.  Please leave me a comment.)
Serging, at least 4-thread serging, consists of 2 loop stitches and 2 straight stitches formed by the needles and held together by the loops.  There is no one thread you can pull to make the serged stitch come apart (believe me, I've tried!)  So here is the best way I know to un-serge a seam.

First, cut one line of loops.  Try to cut only the loops on the side facing you, and not cut any of the loops on the back side of your seam or at the top, where the two loop threads join.  Cut every stitch.

Now, this is the tedious part - pull out all the cut threads.  Yes, this is a pain, but it cuts down the mess and makes the rest a snap.

 Now that all those pesky little threads are gone, grab the loop on the back side of the seam and pull.  If you didn't mistakenly cut a thread, it should pull right out in one long thread.

Now, grab the two straight threads and pull.  They should also come out in one long thread, and your seam should open right up.

Voila!  One serged seam, un-serged.

Good luck!