I have been sorely remiss in blogging as of late. Sometimes, life just gets in the way. I’m in a new position at work, not more money of course, just more aggravation and responsibility (of course). But I love what I do so that’s something I suppose. Don’t think for a minute that the new business of my work day will stop me from sewing daily. I have to keep my sanity somehow!
Before Hancock’s announced they were going out of business, a friend’s daughter had asked me to make some custom baby burp cloths for her sister’s upcoming baby shower. My go-to shower gift is to stitch some cute fabric down the center of a couple of Gerber cloth diapers and call it good. Too simple. I had made some for the first of her two daughters and she said she loved them because they didn’t allow spit-up to soak through to her shoulder, they held up in the wash, they were cute, and they were custom from a friend. That was enough to say I’d make some for her to give to her sister. So she and I were in Hancock’s looking for baby boy fabric and she came across some adorable Frozen pre-shirred dress fabric. The girls were scheduled for a Frozen birthday party so she asked me if I’d make dresses for the girls – now ages 5 and 3. Of course “Aunt Becky” will make them!
Suffice it to say, I didn’t get enough fabric for one of them – it was light pink. I have no idea how I managed to screw that one up but I did. It required another trip to the store – now Joann’s (45 miles away) since Hancock’s is a madhouse and looks like a tornado went through it in their “Going out of Business” sale. These things are too simple to make. Just fold the fabric in half wrong sides together being sure to match the shirring in the middle so it’s not wonky, sew a single seam and boom. Done. They even come hemmed already so you don’t have to do a thing to it. In truth, I’m kind of glad the first one didn’t work out because it had a border print across the bottom that would have made the dress too long for the youngest, Miss Madeline. First of all, thank Goodness Joann’s carries the same type of Frozen shirred fabric! Could you imagine if they didn’t?? Tears! ACK! For the 2nd attempt, the fabric I chose allowed me to shorten it by cutting off the bottom using a narrow 3-thread serge stitch. I did this so it would match her sister’s…’cause, you know… Without a border print, the dress retained the complete look and didn’t lose any of its Frozen-ness. 😃 Here is Miss Madeline and Miss Peyton fresh from gymnastics. Aren’t they adorable?
I added 12” straps that crisscross in the back with 3 sets of button holes and small buttons on the inside of the back near the shoulder blades to adjust for growth. Construction of the straps was a 4″ x 12 1/2″ wide matching cotton, creased with an iron to fold in half lengthwise. Fold in 1/4″ on each short end. Fold the side edges inward toward the crease, and fold along the crease to enclose all the raw edges. I fused a 1″ wide strip of lightweight interfacing internally for body, then stitched the long edges 1/8″ from the sides and across each end.
How could I say no to making dresses for these two sweethearts? When I was asked how much I was owed, I said hugs and kisses would be payment enough. Don’t you think?
Downloadable patterns are all the rage. While they are a pain to print and tape together, not to mention all the wrangling it feels like you have to do just to move it once taped (it literally flaps around), I’ll buy a downloadable pattern every time because my need for instantaneous gratification is fulfilled when I click the Download button. That kind of trumps all the negatives. However, they are also a pain to store. For one, printer paper is bulky, cumbersome, and heavy. And trying to store those cut pieces? Ha! What a mess.
What I’ve started doing is laying tracing velum on top of the printed pattern so I cut the velum, pattern, and fabric all at once. Fabric weights are great for this. Then before I remove the velum, I use a pencil to transfer all the markings and manufacturer/pattern info onto the velum. The velum is MUCH easier to work with because I can erase inevitable mistakes and it folds up lighter and tighter than the printer paper. Once I’ve traced the pattern, I toss the printed version. I’ve saved it to my laptop anyway so if I need to reprint, I can.
There are always cheap plastic zip bags to keep pattern pieces in and I’ve done that for years, but I saw a YouTube video awhile back where a lady had used clear Mylar bags for pattern storage. They were the kind with the reusable adhesive strip for the flap to cling to. This lady actually put her store bought patterns in them too. I’m a bit of an organization freak so I was all over this. The lady recommended an online site (I can’t recall it now) and they seemed fairly reasonable for the price of the bags but the shipping was $15! WHAT? Ha…no.
So I went poking around the websites of local stores and hit pay dirt at Hobby Lobby. Their website didn’t have the sizes I needed so I went to the store the next day. I had to go searching in the Art Supply department vs. Crafts or Sewing to find the right kind of bags in the size needed for patterns. I wouldn’t call them inexpensive – 25 bags for $4.49 for the smaller ones and $5.99 for the bigger ones. But HL always has that 40% off coupon so strategic shopping can pay off.
These things are awesome! The Mylar is very structured so nothing floppy here like zip bags. I bought the store out on the smaller size for my regular patterns and only bought one package of the larger size. They are absolutely perfect for the larger Vogue store-bought patterns and anything I might print.
I’ve found my pattern storage box all of a sudden became very neat and tidy. The 8.5” x 11” printed patterns I haven’t put together yet are now protected from dog ears or being inadvertently scrunched or having single pages sliding under the others as I go pattern hunting. The Mylar allows the patterns to slide smoothly against one another and as I go digging, the pattern envelope flaps don’t get that freshly-dug, half open/torn off look.
If a downloaded pattern doesn’t have a cover page with a color photo of the garment or project, I’ll grab a screen shot and copy/paste it to a Word document and print. Then I cut it out and voila’! Now my downloaded, printed, and cut pattern fits perfectly alongside its store-bought counterparts!
My son is the new Youth Pastor at Mesa Hills Christian Church in Colorado Springs, CO and he’s going through the details of getting a passport for upcoming missionary work in Haiti. I recall when Lladybird made a passport wallet for her trip to Paris so I thought I might make him one. Why does someone need a passport wallet? Well, because (and take it from one who knows first-hand) you want somewhere to keep the Customs Form you get on arrival so you have it handy when you are in the airport on the trip home. I lost my form on my last trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and what a MESS that was at the airport! And… it’s really nice to have that valuable piece of documentation protected in a nice wallet from mom on a trip too.
Teethy McGee Digital download from Etsy.
A couple of years ago, he asked me to make him a replica Goruck Gym Bag and it was made from a new fabric called Cordura. It’s a super high-end military grade synthetic fabric that’s darn near tank-proof and I was surprised at how it easy it was to sew on. Its like a light weight, plastic coated canvas and he liked the bag so much that I thought it would be good material for the wallet. I wanted something that would slide easily in and out of pockets or be found quickly in a carry-on so there wasn’t an inconvenient tug factor when taking the passport out for Customs. I ordered a yard in Smoke Gray for his wallet.
To give the pattern a try, I decided to make a wallet for his wife out of some beautiful quilting fabric I got from Fat Quarter Shop. It’s Town Lake Morning Walk by Leah Duncan. She lives up near Austin and the designs are inspired by her morning walks in South Texas. (I just ordered that Portside Travel Set pattern from Grainline Studios on the FQS blog!) Quilt fabric by a Texan that aren’t cowboy boots and cows? You betcha’! Don’t get me wrong – I have both of those …cowboy boots and cows… but we Texans are so much more than what the media decides to put on TV. Like beautiful morning walks in God’s Country. Just sayin’. 🙂 I love this wallet because it has a place for credit cards. I don’t put credit cards there though, but Texas has a card that can be used for local border crossings that is the same size as a credit card. Its for frequent border crossings and takes the place of a passport. It came in handy before the border became too dangerous for this blondie to cross even in the daylight. I think I’ve used it once since I got it in 2009. But you never know, one day the shopping might be safe again.
I’ll be honest, my first wallet attempt was a fail. I used the wrong type of interfacing (fusible fleece – don’t ask, I can’t say why), I didn’t leave enough room to turn it right-side out and ripped the stitching, and my final seam didn’t turn in properly (fleece issue). So I gave it another shot and TA-DAA! Success! I also trimmed my time off of completion by 20 minutes. I hope she likes it. I’m looking forward to the Cordura fabric getting here so I can make one for my son and one for hubs. 🙂 We still travel to Playa del Carmen occasionally or take a cruise here and there so he’ll use it eventually.
Many of my friends have told me that for Christmas or in the past year, they have a new sewing machine in their life. The popularity of this hobby called “Sewing” has exploded recently and I’m not sure why, but I’m going to chalk it up to an inherent need to put the phone down and get back to basics. There is something so comforting about the entire process of putting a needle into a piece of fabric and forging ahead on the desire to create. This is true whether you are sewing quilt tops, bedding, tote bags, or clothing. Or maybe you just want to hem pants, sew on a Scout patch, or make a zipper repair. Whatever you’re about to dive into, here’s some classes and advice to hopefully make your life much easier. Some of the classes are free and some are paid, but all are worth your time.
In the previous paragraph, I mentioned four types of sewing: Quilting, Home Dec, Bag Making, & Fashion Garments. While each of them share many skills that can build off one another, each one has its own special construction techniques, fabrics, threads, and machine accessories, not to mention its own share of frustrations.
This post is about what I wish I’d known years ago or sources to valuable things I’ve discovered in my sewing journey. The very best piece of advice I can give to newbies is to take a class before your first project, and that includes those who have sewn before but it’s been years and years. Today’s machines are very different from the non-computerized machines of the past. You will save yourself time, money, and an incredible amount of disappointment, frustration, and swearing by taking a class before you ever make a bobbin. You WILL make mistakes…a lot of them (and you’re in amazingly good company!). The second best piece of advice I can give is to be patient and accept any failures as a lesson. Learn from them, chalk it all up to experience, and press on.
If you don’t have a sewing machine yet but you want one, you’re going to want to know the best one to get. The best one to buy is one that you can afford and there’s a factory-authorized maintenance shop nearby. You don’t want to have to send your machine away for maintenance and incur the expense of shipping as well as the repair or tune up. If you have a non-computerized machine, your local machine repair shop will work fine. However, if you’re getting a computerized machine (and I highly recommend that you do because they’re nothing like the old ones and they make life SO much easier) then know that a local machine repair shop may not be able to order new parts from the manufacturer. They cannot do much more than a simple tune up or make timing adjustments. When the power supply on my Brother PE-770 embroidery machine blew up during a storm, I had to take it to an authorized Brother repair shop after I spent the time and money to be told by the local repair guy that he couldn’t order the part.
Classes – The classes I mention below are courses that I have taken myself so I can recommend them from first-hand experience. I must be enrolled in 50 Craftsy classes and while the information is sound, sometimes the instructor can drives you bats. I’m only going to recommend classes that have good basic instruction and info that I really got something out of and I was able to listen to the instructor for a couple of hours. Any money spent on classes will be worth every penny even if it is to just brush up on your skills.
If you are just getting acquainted with your sewing machine, this free class, Sew Ready, Machine Basics will get you started with understanding how today’s computerized machines work. This course covers everything from how to make a bobbin to the different types of sewing machine feet, threads, needles, troubleshooting, etc. In this video, she is using a Baby Lock machine, but it is identical to the Brother machines on my Power Tool Arsenal page. They are the same company! The Brother machines are less expensive than Baby Lock and I’ve not found a difference between the two at all. Think of them like GMC and Chevy. Same-same. Quilting – For basic block construction, your best bet is any video produced by the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Jenny Doan makes the complex seem simple, and the introduction of fabric pre-cuts solves the basic problem of “Do these fabrics match?” A single pre-cut will contain a sampling of each design in a fabric line and will be cut in anything from 10″ squares to 2.5″ strips. If quilting is your thing, or you want it to be, sign up for Missouri Star’s Daily Deal, add it to your favorites, and hit the site first thing every morning. Shipping is always $5, and the cost of the deal is around half or less than what you’d pay in a store. They also recommend the right shade of background fabric and a pattern to use that goes with the daily deal. You simply can’t go wrong! The daily deal can be anything from fabric, to rulers, or quilting accessories like thread, pins, clips, …you name it. I’ve built my entire stash from the MSQC for a fraction of the cost I’d of paid at a quilt shop.
Please don’t let me dissuade you from frequenting your local quilt shops – they are a wonderful experience (most of the time), and you’ll be able to sign up for classes or Shop Hops (tours), fondle yummy fabric, and make many new friends. I also hit the local shops for backings, batting, and specialty threads. What I’m about to say however is very controversial, but it must be addressed if you aspire to be a quilter. I believe that forewarned is forearmed about what I consider to be quilting’s dirty little secret. Don’t be intimidated when you walk in your local quilt shop – just waltz in like you own the place and browse or shop to your heart’s content. If your local shop is full of quilt snobs – and they are out there in droves – find the fabric you want, then go home and buy it cheaper online or look elsewhere locally where you feel comfortable in the store. Do not reward snobby shops with your money. These snobby quilt shops are behaving to their own detriment and being replaced one-by-one by technology. As Jenny Doan from MSQC says, “Finished is better than perfect.” Find a store that supports you no matter your skill level. And if that shop is online, then so be it.
A note about quilting cottons from big box stores like Wal-Mart, JoAnn’s, or Hancock Fabrics. You get what you pay for in feel, color fastness, and wear. Balance the level of effort you’re going to put into the project against the cost of the fabric. As your skills progress, you’ll want quality quilting cottons for projects whether heirloom or not. However, if you’re just starting out with your first table runner, it might be a good idea to start with less expensive fabrics until you figure out the piecing aspect of the blocks. It’s so frustrating to spend a ton on fabric only to screw up the project. Again, the MSQC Daily Deal is a good way to start so you get quality fabrics at a fraction of the cost.
When it’s time to put the quilt top together and make the magic happen, this is probably the best class I’ve found. Ann Peterson is very thorough and explains the why’s and how’s of making all your time and effort on the quilt top turn into a successful finished quilt. Small Machine, Big Quilts, Better Results You don’t need a big long-arm quilting machine to finish your quilt. If you’re just starting out, use some clear thread and stitch in the ditch through where the blocks intersect – easy peasy! All the fancy quilt designs can come later. My first quilting project was a MSQC Christmas table runner and it was a success.
For Home Dec – This is a great class for making duvet covers. Custom Bedding: Designer Duvet Covers. If you want to make curtains or learn how to recover a chair or make cushions & pillows, search Craftsy and find a course you think will work for you. I haven’t taken any so I can’t recommend one.
Making clothing for adults or tweens with curves is a real challenge. Fit has always been my nemesis. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, can take a commercial pattern straight from the package, make your size and have it fit right on the first go. So don’t even bother. Most commercial patterns are a B-cup, and even if you are a B-cup, there are a ton of things that need adjusting before it will fit right. If you are going to attempt to make clothing from scratch, do yourself a huge favor and invest in Sure Fit Designs. It is worth every…single…penny. The basic dress kit contains everything you need to make your own basic body blueprint with step-by-step DVD’s and templates for full-bust adjustments, darts, plus size, and a gazillion other things. There’s also a segment on adjusting commercial patterns to your perfect fit. You need the commercial patterns for design elements and instructions, but you’ll need your body blueprint (called a sloper in the industry), to make adjustments to the commercial pattern lines. Really, I mean this…just pony up the cash and consider the investment in Sure Fit Designs just as important as the machine itself. I can’t tell you how much time, effort, and money I’ve wasted making myself garments that don’t fit. There are some SFD videos on YouTube so you can check it out before you buy.
So that’s it! I wish each of you the best of luck in your new sewing adventures! I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you all a Happy and Safe New Year!
This post involves machine embroidery, but these spa robes can be made without it.
When a guy coworker announced he was marrying his long-time girlfriend, I thought that Bride/Groom spa robes would be pretty cool gifts. I got the color choice from his mom’s suggestion and I chose a very “renaissance” style of embroidery pattern because he and she costume-up every year for the Texas Renaissance Festival. He’s a big gamer too with one of those fantasy wizard games in that time period (don’t ask me, I have no idea which one).
I chose towels in a medium weight and followed this YouTube video for how-to. These are not difficult to make, however it’s in the details of whether it’s a successful project or not. Like making sure when it’s worn that the towel’s enclosed end-seams or manufacturer’s tag are to the inside, the Velcro is placed correctly (I had a Fail here on my first attempt of the groom’s) and the right/left closures for his vs. hers are proper.
I used 12” of ¾” non-roll elastic inside a 2” casing. I made sure that the manufacturer’s tag was either inside the casing or cut off in the case of the groom’s. From center, measure out 10 inches in each direction and pin. Then fold down a 2 inch casing to the inside of the towel, and sew a casing between the pins and insert the elastic. I used a stretch-stitch (lightning bolt looking stitch on today’s machines) to sew each end of the elastic. It may not have been truly needed for stretch purposes, but the stitch is super strong and that is needed.
Then stitch down the remainder of the casing from the ends of the elastic out to the ends of the towel and pivot stitch up to the top of the towel to enclose the ends. I cut his to 25” prior to creating the casing to wear around the waist.
Here’s where details come in to get this right. On hers, the front fold is right-over-left. His is left-over-right. If you’re not sure, take a look at RTW shirts and note the button placement on the front bands. I used 12” of sew-in Velcro and placed it ½” in from the end of the towel. I used white Velcro for hers and black for his.For the Velcro, the trick is: Hers: Velcro goes on the right inside upper and left outside lower of each end. His: Velcro goes on the left outside upper and right inside lower of each end.
When I cut the groom’s towel shorter, I did serge the long cut edge because of fraying. And the left-over towel became batting for a Halloween wall hanging and extra little hand towels for me!
And that’s it! Really, they are that simple. And then embroider any pattern to customize.
I don’t know about where you are, but where I am, these pants are all the rage. Big, bigger, biggest, and comfy like wearing pajamas to work! I love me some Palozzo Pants! I actually stopped a couple of girls at work that were wearing them to study the design and pattern (that’s when you KNOW you are really a sewing obsessed dork!) and then I went straight to Hobby Lobby at lunch and I looked for patterns to work with in that design (I had that awesome 40% off coupon!) I was wandering in the fabric aisles and OOOhhhh! Look at THIS! This Aztecan striped knit print is beyond Awesome! I see it with my solid knit navy blue top. The bolt was 60”, and I’m 69” so I figured 2 yards would be enough to make the pattern run vertically down my legs. The lady at the cutting table said she liked the fabric but couldn’t think of what to do with it. I showed her the pattern and explained the Palazzo Pant. After cutting, instead of putting the bolt to the side to be returned to the shelf, she winked and put it behind the counter for herself saying her daughter would love some.
Let me start by saying, if you don’t have a serger, DON’T even attempt this pattern with this particular fabric. It was great to sew with, BUT!…The inner navy lining was stringy, it frayed, it balled, and was possessed with some kind of sticky. Many times I was like my cat with a piece of tape on her paw (which is outrageously funny!). And I cut it out using a rotary cutter. I could have probably done it with scissors but I prefer to cut my fabric out as much as possible with rotary cutters.
This pattern is perfect if you’ve never sewn pants before – which truthfully, I never have successfully done. These were my VERY FIRST completed pair! And I’m very pleased with the result. The only thing I needed to do was lower the waist an inch. And I cheated at that because I ended up rolling in the elastic waist one turn and securing with another zig zag stitch. I eyeballed the leg hems too. Seriously, I never took a single measure. These went together so easily. I did, however, use sticky notes pinned to each piece up near the waist that said “Front” and “Back” to make sure I didn’t sew front to front and back to back (been there; done that; many years ago and tossed it).
I wore them to work on Casual Friday and a sewist co-worker said that if I hadn’t told her I had made them she would have sworn they were RTW. Biggest compliment ever! I will be making many, many more of these babies.