Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Birthday apron

Granddaughter Anya celebrated her 4th birthday a few weeks ago and Nannie had been asked to make her an apron. This is what I came up with:




The print fabric is directional but it goes in all directions. Some of the Minnies were vertical, some sideways. So I wasted some fabric trying to figure out the best way. There is also some text that ended up upside-down but I figured Anya wouldn’t really care. She can’t read it yet anyway LOL.



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Design Wall Monday 09.09.13

No quilts on the design wall this week. I’m making a gift from Burda 9708, a pattern I’ve made a couple of times for my granddaughter.

Two observations about this pattern. One, there are two pattern pieces missing from the cutting layout. No big deal because they are both cut on the fold and there aren’t too many different ways to accomplish that. I don’t know that I’ve ever run into a commercial pattern with a misprint, but then, this is the one and only Burda pattern I’ve ever worked with.

Two, I didn’t pay attention until now that Burda wants me to place my fabric right sides together (wrong sides out), something I’ve never, ever done with a clothing pattern. I’ve turned pattern pieces upside down when it’s called for, but I’ve always positioned my fabric right side out. This is a very symmetrical pattern, so there should be no issues with pieces facing the wrong way, but I went to the Sewing forum for assurances that if I cut it out Burda’s way, the dress wouldn’t have to be worn inside out LOL. There were a variety of opinions on why this would be called for, one of which is the ease of marking on the wrong side of the fabric. Personally, I don’t usually have problems marking notches, darts, etc. but maybe it’s because I’ve always done it one way.

Now one new thing I tried and it’s either brilliant or incredibly stupid. This pattern has facings that will be reinforced with fusible interfacing. Rather than cutting out the facing and interfacing separately, I layered the interfacing on top of the fabric and then pinned on the pattern and cut them out at once. That should give me a better chance of the interfacing exactly matching the facing. Not that it would be off much anyway, but it is a little more efficient, time-wise.


That’s all from Short Pump, here’s what’s going on at Judy L’s page. Check it out!

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Sewing, sewing, sewing

Wow, it’s been way too long since I’ve posted.

My granddaughter, Anya, celebrated her 3rd birthday earlier this month and of course, I had to sew for her!

Just for fun, I made her a superhero cape, although I made it more girly and less “super.”


Lady bugs on one side, solid color on the other.

Next, I worked on a dress and hat:

simplicity 5695

I haven’t sewn clothing in a long time, so my skills were a little rusty, but I think it came out pretty nice.

IMG_2947 IMG_2948

I was worried that it would be too small. You never know if these patterns run true to size or not and I was hoping this one ran large.

I was right. She has plenty of room to grow into it.


robin siggy chalk

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Snap Happy II bag


I want to talk a little about the pattern for this bag. If you have made one, perhaps you ran into the same annoyances I did. I don’t want to say the pattern was not tested properly, it’s just that the directions could use an overhaul. Read completely through the steps and make sure you understand each one before you start.

First off, the yardage requirements aren’t quite right. There’s no reason to buy a half yard (18″) of the fusibles when you only need 10″; buy one third yard (12″). Of course, too much is better than too little. I’d be really hacked off if that were the case.

Second, I’m beginning to be a little wary of patterns that say “fat quarter” for yardage requirements. A fat quarter isn’t necessarily 18″x22″ anymore, it could be 18″x20″ or 21″. If your pattern makes full use of a fat quarter, make sure you know the layout of the pattern pieces before you buy your fabric. You might find yourself just an inch or so short. That’s what happened to me here. I opted not to make the pocket, which I would have made out of the lining fabric. The sleeve isn’t included in the yardage requirements for some reason. I wanted to make the sleeve out of the lining fabric and I came up a half inch short. So I bought another fat quarter. It’s no big deal this time because I have a lot of the outer fabric left, I might be able to make a whole second bag. If not one this size, then one of the smaller ones.

The next problem I encountered was understanding the step about fusing the fleece to the outer fabric. I did figure it out, but “fuse it down in the center?” I discussed this step with my friend at the LQS and she thought it meant to tack fuse the fleece in a line down the center. No, I’m pretty sure that’s not what it means. That’s not how I did it.

The step about inserting the metal tape into the casing doesn’t explicitly say if you should put it in the front of the casing, between the lining and the outer fabric, or the back of the casing, between the outer fabric and the lining (the outer fabric is sandwiched between the outside lining and the inside lining. The tape could have been inserted either way. Maybe it doesn’t matter). I inserted mine in the front.

If you’ve never made a box bottom for a bag before, you’ll never ever figure it out from the directions in this pattern. Do what I did and check YouTube, I found a couple of videos that show exactly how it’s done. Another detail that’s not mentioned is what to do with the extra triangular pieces after you box the bottom. I trimmed mine with my pinking rotary cutter. There was just so much bulk otherwise.

I bought a sheet of plastic canvas for the inside bottom on the advice of the LQS friend who said if you use cardboard and the bag gets wet… But I’m not sure this inside bottom piece is even necessary. The plastic canvas isn’t as sturdy as corrugated cardboard and really doesn’t do much of anything to keep the bottom stabilized/square. I’m open to new suggestions for that. I have enough leftover lining fabric to make another one.

The directions could benefit from better/more diagrams. The ones they have are adequate, except the one for the box bottom, which isn’t at all helpful. A photo would be better. I also used Electric Quilt to diagram the fabric cutting layouts for different options: with a pocket, without a pocket, sleeve, no sleeve, etc. That’s how I confirmed that a traditional fat quarter won’t be enough if you want to make the lining, sleeve and tabs out of it. You could make the pocket and sleeve out of the outer fabric if you want, and maybe that’s what the designer was thinking, but I wanted the whole inside of my bag to be consistent. A third of a yard will do it.

You can buy this pattern and more from the designer, Stitchin’ Sisters or from Create for Less. The pattern costs more from the designer but the shipping is half as much as from CFL. I just ordered the original pattern for the smaller sizes. I had purchased a metal tape measure from the dollar store but I wasn’t paying attention and got one that was 5/8″ instead of 1″. Maybe the smaller bags can use the smaller tape. We have a new Harbor Freight Tools store in town and this weekend they were running a coupon for a free 1″ tape measure with any purchase, so I bought some rotary cutter blades and got my free tape.

If you’ve made this bag, I’d love to hear your impressions of the experience and what you might have done differently.


ETA: there’s a few things I left out of this post. When I fused the fleece to the outer fabric, it must have shrunk the fabric a little because the outer fabric and lining were no longer the same width. I should have squared up the lining to match the outer fabric’s width because I had a problem with the side seams. I had to take a wider seam to make sure I caught the outer fabric in it. It ended up being no big deal, but I’ve made a note to do this square-up process if this happens again.

Also, when you’re sewing the French seam, go back and stitch along the casing again. This stitching takes a lot of stress when you’re turning the bag inside and right side out during construction.

My LQS friend gave me a very helpful tip that I wouldn’t have thought of myself: if you’re using directional fabric for the outside, add a seam allowance to the length of your layout, cut the fabric in half and sew it together so that your directional fabric won’t be upside down on one side. You’ll have a seam on the bottom, but so what?



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My "new" Featherweight

I’ve been watching the estate sales for a Featherweight and this one came up this weekend. I don’t usually get to go to the sales on the first day because I work, but I just happened to be off on Friday. This sale was not very far from home, so I got up early and got in line for a number (I was #2, yay!) and then hung out for an hour until the sale started. I didn’t want to leave because I got a very good parking spot and the neighborhood wasn’t well-suited for parking. I have an audiobook on my iPhone, so I plugged it into my car’s audio system and listened to it while I waited.

There weren’t a lot of people waiting in line but I asked lady #1 if she was there for the Featherweight. No, she wasn’t. Yay! There was a lady several spots behind me and she was on her cell phone talking to somebody about the machine, so I knew I was going to have some competition. Fortunately for me, I could see the machine sitting on a table just inside the door so I knew right where to make my beeline once they let us into the house. The other lady couldn’t see in the door from where she was standing. hehehe

I don’t have much (read: any) experience with buying stuff at these kinds of sales but I knew that I should test it to see if it worked. The other lady came over and was very helpful in finding an outlet to plug it in and looking for the code that tells you the machine’s age (she didn’t find it). I hated to disappoint her, but this machine had my name on it.

The machine works but needs an inspection and a cleaning. The cord to the foot pedal is a little frayed so I’ll want to replace it. I tried to sew some test seams last night but it didn’t make any stitches. I may have the bobbin in incorrectly or some other kind of user error. It didn’t come with the attachments that were original to the machine, but I don’t really need them myself. It does have the original user guide, copywrite 1952. I found the code on the bottom of the machine and according to the website that tells you these things, my machine was built (born) in 1950.

So I guess I’ll have to name her, won’t I?



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Baby Dresses

I’ve taken a short break from quilt making to do something I haven’t done in probably 20+ years: clothing.

My friend Kay,


who is probably the most generous person in the world, loaned me her Bernina serger and spent an afternoon showing me how to use it and how it integrates into the whole process. I had never used one before, and the idea of it trimming your seam allowances is scary and permanent. But I quickly got comfortable with it and just love how it takes away a lot of that “Becky-home-ecky” look of homemade clothing.

Kay hadn’t used the machine in a while and the stitches weren’t the most beautiful, and she’s taking it in today for a cleaning/adjustment. But that’s ok, these dresses are just for size testing for my granddaughter. She’s just now growing into 12 months ready-to-wear and I want to see how close the patterns come to RTW.

Burda 9708--18months size

Burda 9708--12 months size

[Edited to correct the pattern number: it’s 9708, not 9308]

Kay had gotten this machine from her sister and for whatever reason, didn’t get the user guide from her. So she didn’t have any threading instructions other than what’s diagrammed inside the cover. Neither one of us can see that very well in our old age (LOL) so I found a guide for sale on the internet and downloaded it. It is a low-res scan of the user guide and I’m not happy about that, but it’s better than nothing. While making the monkey dress, I had some issues with the machine, so was forced to try and thread the thing myself. I apparently didn’t know what I was doing as I couldn’t fix it. I took it back to Kay last night and we worked on it so that I could get my last 2 seams done. I found in one of the threading diagrams in the book that Kay was missing one step. I swear it doesn’t show on the diagram on the cover. It wasn’t easy to get the thread in that slot, but once she did, the machine made beautiful seams! She’s still going to take it in today and get them to show her how that slot is supposed to be accessed because it’s like threading it blindly.

I want one now more than ever. I shopped around when Erin announced her pregnancy. If I can ever afford one, I’m going to get Baby Lock. The Jet Air threading and no tension disks are very appealing. The Viking dealer didn’t even know how to thread theirs and I don’t remember why I decided against Bernina. I think the Baby Lock just beat out all the others.

Do you have one? Which model? What are the pros and cons of yours?


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Yesterday I made a quick run to Joann’s and picked up some novelty fabrics to make pillowcases for our own use. (We are going to visit family next month and will buy a couple of bed pillows like the ones we use here at home and leave them at my sister-in-law’s. I thought some fun pillowcases will remind her that these are our pillows LOL).

These are the fastest, easiest projects I think I’ve ever made. Truly there are 4 seams, if you sew the side and bottom separately. If you make one continuous seam, then it’s only two. The version we made at Quilter’s Corner uses a French seam method so there are no raw edges. From start to finish, I think this took me 2 hours. While I’m normally a pre-wash kind of gal, I didn’t do that this time to save time. I will just wash them before we leave.

I chose not to use a 3rd fabric for an accent strip, but either way, it’s one handsome pillowcase.

Isn’t this coffee cup/coffee bean fabric cute?

I thought these dogs were precious. Especially that little Westie.

I’m thinking there might be some Christmas gifts in my future…

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Pillowcases for Charity

Yesterday I went to Quilter’s Corner and participated in the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.

I only had time to make a couple of pillowcases, but it was fun and easy. QC provided the fabrics, already cut to size, the directions and the sewing machines, so all I had to do was show up and sew.

We used a method that the APQ site calls “roll it up.” The concept was kind of hard to visualize from the printed instructions we used, but this how-to video is very clear. You can also download printed instructions. Pillowcases are versatile, we added an accent strip to ours.


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I have never owned or operated a serger. I was a garment sewer for a lot of years, made all my own clothes in high school. But after awhile, it got to be more expensive to make them than to buy them off the rack. And that was about the time I was having babies and raising a family, and there just wasn’t much time. I made Halloween costumes for the kids once or twice and made Easter outfits for them. Home sergers didn’t exist then (at least not to my knowledge) and I never liked the homemade look of seam allowances, even though I could have overcast or zigzagged them (I think my old Kenmore had those capabilities), but that was an additional step. And over the years, I just didn’t know what I’d do with one so didn’t really give them much or any thought. And I really never gave them any thought when I started quilting.

But after watching a Sewing with Nancy episode series on sergers a year or so ago, I decided that should I ever sew garments again, I’d get one and take a chance on if I’d really use it or not.

My office closed at noon on Wednesday, so I took that time off to do a little shopping. I have done a little internet research and learned that I probably will want a 5-thread machine so that I can do a coverstitch (because even if I never ever really do a coverstitch, I’d be much more upset if I wanted to and couldn’t, right?). I learned that I’ll want differential feed. I learned that threading these machines seems to be way more difficult than it needs to be (doesn’t it?) So I stopped at the Bernina dealer and looked at theirs. He didn’t have a 5-thread model on the floor but let me play with a sample on a 4-thread. Wow do they ever sew fast! I intended to ask him to show me how to thread it so that I could see for myself just what the fuss is, but after I saw it, was too intimidated to ask. One feature of the Berninas is some kind of automatic tension thing. The salesman made it sound like it’s the big selling point, but I don’t know. My friend Kay has a Bernina serger (I don’t know which model) and doesn’t like it. She says it gets out of alignment easily and I’m not sure what she means by that. I’ll have to ask her. Her sister had a couple of Berninas, didn’t like them either, sold them and bought Viking. She loves the Viking.

From there I went to the BabyLock dealer (this is the store that carries Koala cabinets). BabyLock invented the home serger 40 years ago (really? where was I?) and the woman kept effusing about the Japanese engineers who design these machines. She sounded a lot like the Mercedes Benz, VW and BMW commercials that effuse about German engineering. Where are the American engineers? BabyLock doesn’t have a 5-thread model anymore, they have an 8 thread machine. If you think threading with 4 or 5 threads is intimidating, try 8. Holy cow! She didn’t let me do any of the sewing, I got to watch her do it. But she did let me take home the sample. Man oh man does it have nice stitches. But let me tell you about the threading on the BabyLocks. You stick the end of the thread into a hole and push a lever. A puff of air sends the thread through the machine and it comes out right where it’s supposed to. Sweet! Also, they have a patented “tubular” threading system where the threads travel through, you guessed it, tubes. You’d have to see it to understand what I mean but I imagine it’s related to the air method. One other nice thing about the threading is that you don’t have to do it in any particular order like other manufacturers’ models and you can change out one thread if you want to without having to unthread and re-thread everything else. That appeals to me. The 8 thread machine is quite pricey.

Then I went to the new Joann’s which has a Viking dealer inside. Unfortunately the lady in charge does not own a serger and couldn’t figure out how to thread it, even referring to the owner’s manual. Viking has a brand new 5-thread machine, cheaper than the BabyLock but still pricey. So I didn’t really have a quality experience there since I felt like she didn’t know enough about her products to actually sell them. Another lady came by who wanted to look at a sewing machine and with her hanging around waiting made me feel like I was putting her out even though I got there first. But I think I saw enough of the threading process to know that maybe I don’t want a Viking. She did some stitching on a sample with another machine that was already threaded and let me take it with me. The stitches are nice enough, but the BabyLock’s are better. One thing about Vikings is that they never need to be oiled. That’s one thing I love about my Viking sewing machine but it isn’t enough of a benefit to make me want one of their sergers all that bad. Again, I’ll have to ask Kay what it is about them that her sister loves so much.

When I got home, I compared all the brochures I’d brought back and decided that maybe the coverstitch isn’t all that important to me. I definitely won’t buy the 8-thread BabyLock, but one of the 4-thread models looks do-able. I’ll have to go back and see what the stitches on it look like. I think for me, the air threading thing is the killer feature.

From what I saw, all sergers have the same capabilites of basic stitches so the manufacturers have to really stretch to come up with new features to justify price increases and stay current.

Do you have a serger? Post a comment and tell me what you have, what you like/don’t like about it and what your next one will be (there’s always a next one, right?)


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Sewing cabinets

One thing that’s been on mind for more than a year is that I need a new sewing cabinet. One where my machine will sit flush with the table top so that I can bone up on my machine quilting skills. Right now, my machine sits on a folding cafeteria table and has one of those acrylic “beds” which gives me more room for piecing and general sewing, but it makes quilting a large quilt painful and frustrating.

In my town there are two Horn dealers and I made up my mind that I was going to buy the quilter’s model from one of them and buy something else from the other. I’ve been saving my money for a long time and I’m finally ready to place my order. My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I’m going to celebrate with the new purchase.

But last weekend something happened that made me doubt my purchase decision. I had run in to the “other” dealer just to ask a Horn question because they’re closer to me than the other one. Oh my goodness, they also carry Koala cabinets now. I had never seen any Koalas in person, only in magazine ads. I know that they’re more expensive than the Horns so I never gave them another thought, the Horns are expensive enough. But to see one up close and touch it? The workmanship and quality is exquisite. Koala has many more layout possibilities than Horn, and if you have the money and the room, you could set yourself up one heck of a studio. So I got to thinking that maybe I ought to save for a few more months and go with a Koala. Hmmm, what to do, what to do?

Then Erin and Kevin told us about the baby. I had just the day before told my friend Kay that if I ever had grandchildren I was going to get a serger and make baby clothes. What timing! I think this made my decision for me. I’ll get the Horn and put the extra money I would have paid for a Koala toward a serger. I don’t need the serger for several more months and that will give me time to save for it.

If you have either Horn or Koala, please post a comment and let me know what you think of the model you bought. The one I’m buying is the Quilter’s Dream #3180.


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