Archive | February 2016

New gizmo! Quilt Calculator

I was on quilt Shop Hop two weekends ago with a couple of quilty friends from work.  We did the Taste of Texas and Crusin’ the Coast and hit 9 stores over two days between San Antonio, Houston, and Corpus Christi with an overnight stay at my coast house.  GIRLS ROADTRIP!  Oh gosh we had the best time!  The quilt talk, the wine, the stores, the wine, the fabric…You get the idea!  At one of the stores, I saw the Quilter’s FabriCalc and I was intrigued.  I stink at math and it’s not uncommon for me to either get too much or not enough fabric.  I know there are “apps for that” out on the web but I have a Windows phone that doesn’t support one (I know, I know – get an Android device…but in my day job I know Google is a nosey dog and I hate Apple’s app restrictions – don’t get me started on geek stuff).  Anyway, I passed on the calculator because it was like $30.  In the back of my mind, I regretted missing the purchase but ignored the voice and pressed on.

A couple of days later, I went to my local quilt shop to get borders and backing for a panel I bought on the shop hop.  I found my fabric  ($11.95 a yard! Yikes!) and made my way to the cutting table.  The lady asks me how much I needed and I told her enough for backing for a panel,  a 4″ border, and binding.  She just stares at me and says “OK. So how much?”  I said, “I don’t know, I leave that to y’all.”  Apparently she’s as bad at math as I am and in the wrong job.  So we spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure it out.

While I was in the store, I said, “Why don’t y’all have one of those quilter’s calculators?”  She said she’d heard they were too complicated and too hard and the manager chimed in that they had one at a store she used to work at and they could never figure it out.  Well, it can’t be as difficult as what I was going through right then!   I ordered the Quilter’s FabriCalc in the car on my phone before I left the parking lot.  $22 on Amazon.  Score!

When it arrived, I was determined to figure it out and make it work for me.  It came with a big book I didn’t read, an instructional DVD, (that I can’t find to take a picture of) and a little pocket-size instruction book that actually goes INSIDE the back of the calculator case.  Very cool.  I love that it has a cover to close over it which will prevent any purse dirt from getting into the keys.  Anyway, without even so much as turning it on, I sat down with the pocket instruction book determined to master the supposedly impossible device.
WP_20160218_07_41_20_Pro The biggest thing about this calculator at first glance, is not to get overwhelmed by all the buttons.  It looks very intimidating, but as with most gadgets, it turns out you really only need to use a few of the buttons for most tasks. So in addition to the numbers buttons, you will mostly use the top row of buttons (that you use from left to right in order) and the Yardage or Inch button.

You guys will be amazed at how EASY this thing is!  First of all, users need to understand that there are defaults built into the calculator.  For those who don’t know the term default, it means “a given or assumed amount”.  It assumes you have 40″ of usable fabric, you’re using 1/4″ seams, there is an additional 4″ of backing all around, and all binding strips are 2.5″ wide.  That works for me.  You can change these default amounts if you want in the preference settings.  It displays in fractional amounts but can be set to decimal or metric.

My panel is 23″ across so I put in 23 and pressed the Inch button (above the 8) and then the Top Width button.  Man, that was hard.

My panel is 39.5″ long  so I pressed 39.5, then the Inch button, and then Top Length.  Whew!  Oh my brain.

My border is 4″ all around so I pressed 4, the Inch button, and Border.  See how hard this is?

I don’t have a drop (it’s a wall hanging vs. a bed spread) so I skipped that button and I pressed the last button, Quilt Ydg, once.  Quilt Ydg acts kind of like a “total” button.  Pressing it multiple times will cycle through all the totals I will need.  On the first press, it tells me my entire finished quilt top is 1 1/8 yards.  Good to know, but that’s not important to me for this project.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me I need 1 5/8  yds for backing. Now we’re talking!

Press Quilt Ydg again and  I need 1/2 yd for the border. I’m falling in love here.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me I be using 4 strips for the border.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me my border strips will be 4 1/2″ wide.  I knew that already but it’s just cycling through its calculations.  Go baby go!
Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me I need 1/3 yd for the binding.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me that I’ll have 4 binding strips.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it tells me my strips are 2 1/2″ wide.

Press Quilt Ydg again and it goes back to the quilt top dimension again of 1 1/8 yds to begin going through the resulting measurements again.  OK, so how much of this fabric do I need in total from all those amounts?

My borders, backing, and binding all going to be all the same fabric so I need to add those amounts together.  I don’t have to write them down to do that either.  To get a total amount of fabric, as I scroll through the results again in Quilt Ydg, I pressed the + sign after each amount I need.  So I pressed the + sign (bottom right key) at the 1-5/8 backing screen.

I keep pressing Quilt Ydg again as it cycles through and then when it gets to 1/2 for the border, I press the + sign again.

And I press + again at the screen showing 1/3 yd for the binding.  The total result was 2 1/3 yards!!  Can you hear my heart singing?
WP_20160221_07_16_34_Pro Of course, since I didn’t have the quilt calc at the store I only got 2 yards so I have to go back. 🙂  Never again!  This has changed my math-challenged quilting journey!  Obviously, with all those keys, it can do many more things up to and including telling you how much the fabric will cost.  If I ever feel the need, I can pull out the handy-dandy pocket guide to work those numbers out, but I’ll probably be sticking to the basic calculations for now.

How to Replace a Shirt Button

I’m continually surprised when I hear grown adults say, “I can’t even sew on a button.”  So in honor of them, I’m making this Back-to-the-Basics post to show how easy it is to machine sew a button on a shirt.  There’s a bit more to it than just needle and thread to achieve a professional and clean finish.  Believe me, in the early days, there were lots of buttons with bird’s nests in them either on the front or back!  Here are some tips I learned along the way.

 Most of the time when a button comes off a shirt (at least the shirts in my life) it’s because it was broken in half at the dry cleaners in the pressing process.  Here is one of my husband’s shirts with a missing collar button.

Replacing buttons is a frequent occurrence in my world.  So I make it a point to stock up on buttons when they go on sale.

Unless the button is on a cuff, collar band, or the button band down the front center of the shirt where there are multiple layers of fabric and maybe some interfacing, it will need a bit of stabilizer on the back. A light to medium weight will do.  This will help to keep the stitches from tearing the fabric.  I usually just cut a about a half inch of iron-on interfacing and put it over the existing holes.  It’s a great way to use up those little pieces of extra interfacing.  If you don’t have interfacing, find a lightweight scrap of material and attach it with a glue stick.  Really.  The glue will come out in the wash and the backing will be sewn on by affixing the button.

If it’s hard to see from the front, I use a fabric marking pen to mark the spot.  No fabric marker?  Make a teeny dot with a pencil.

Make sure you’ve got long thread tails to start. You’re going to need them.

Set the machine for a regular zigzag stitch.

IMPORTANT: Lower the feed dogs or set the stitch length to zero.  This will prevent the shirt from moving during the stitching process.  Do not change the stitch width.

Put a button foot on your machine. If it doesn’t have a specialized button foot, you’ll need a foot that allows a zigzag stitch.  Place the button on the anchor spot on the shirt and gently slide it under the button foot.  Try to get two opposing holes centered in the button foot or stitch spot and lower the presser foot to hold the button in place.  Take a look at the other buttons and see which way the stitches and holes go.  Are they in an X with the holes at 2-4-8-10?  Or are the holes at 3-6-9-12?  Try to make yours look the same.  If they’re not, don’t die over it.  Most people won’t notice.  I just try to strive for a factory finish while I’m there.

Using the hand wheel, slowly lower the needle making sure it doesn’t hit either side of the holes in the button. If it does, change the stitch length until the needle goes in both holes successfully.  If needed, reposition the button.  Once the needle is cleanly going in both holes, use the foot pedal and stitch 8-10 times.

Without moving the shirt too much, lift the presser foot and reposition the button by turning the shirt and button 90 degrees to line up the last two button holes under the stitch point. Repeat the process to line up the holes and stitch the button on.

Pull the shirt from the machine and leave long thread tails of about 6-8 inches.
Then tie off the back threads in a double knot and trim off the excess threads close to the knot.IMG_3556

Put the front two thread tails into a hand sewing needle (hint: use a needle threader to get them through the needle at the same time).

Push the needle through the holes in the button from the front to the back side to pull the front threads through. IMG_3560

Remove the needle and tie off the threads in a double knot and trim close to the knot.

Perfect and ready to wear!

Short on Fabric? Colorblock!

While organizing my patterns the other day, I had a “SQUIRREL!!” moment.  You know what I mean.  It happens when out of nowhere, your attention is suddenly diverted and you go haring off in a different direction from what you were supposed to be doing.  Well, it was probably inevitable anyway when going through patterns.  But I came across a top pattern that I forgot I had and seriously wanted to make…right then.  Isn’t this cute?  Hey, it might have been January but it was 73 degrees outside so I was thinking about a new lightweight top!

So I went digging in my stash to look for some fabric and found some black jersey left-over from a previous project.  You could tell where other pieces had been cut out of it but I figured I probably had enough.  Wrong!  Rats.  Of course I didn’t figure that out until I’d already cut the bodice front, facing, and cap sleeves.

I pulled out my Sure Fit Designs bodice front.

Then I laid the pattern’s bodice front over the top of it.  The trick is to match the center front point and shoulder angle to get the fit right.  I’ll add the dart vs. doing an FBA.


I don’t have a photo of the next step but I put tracing velum over the top of the pattern and traced out a new pattern that’s like a blend between the two that incorporates the fit I need with the design elements of the pattern.  That’s the beauty of Sure Fit Designs!  However, once I got to cutting, I realized I did NOT have enough fabric.  Ugh!  Sooooo???  Color block!  If you’d like to color block but not sure where on a garment to do it, just type in “color block” on a search engine and you’ll see thousands of examples of where designers have done it.  Eyeball theirs and go for it.  Also, be creative.  Color blocking doesn’t have to be done with “like” fabrics either – you can use lace, sheer organza, silk, satin, etc.  The sky is the limit!

First, I hacked up the back bodice across the shoulders.

I also had some left over white jersey from another project so I created a double layer for the shoulders and sandwiched the bottom of the back bodice between the new shoulder color-blocked section, kind of like how a back yoke is made on a tailored shirt.  The trick to color blocking is to make sure you add seam allowances on both pieces where they will segment each other.  It’s hard to tell here, but the back couldn’t be cut on the fold of the black fabric (because I didn’t have a big enough piece) so there is a center seam down the bottom back piece where I had to play “Betsy McCall Paper Dolls” with the black scraps to keep it on grain.  I added some featherweight interfacing to the exterior white piece too so it has a nice heft to it and it feels and hangs like a quality garment.

My attention to this project waned at the end so I scrapped the cap sleeves.  Good thing too because the end result was a little big under the arms but I took some of that out with the serger in what I call a blind alteration.  I’ll just serge off about that much. ha ha  The shoulders are not forward as the photo looks below – it’s the way I was standing.   And I really enjoyed using my Janome Cover Pro 900 machine to do the back neckline, sleeves and hem.  I was able to use the cover stitch to go over the clipping I did to allow the curves to lay flat.  On the outside, it looks great!

I’ll probably be wearing this pretty frequently!