Recently in Notions Category

Home Décor Tips and Tricks: Valance

April 16, 2014

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Recently my mom asked me to help her create a valance for her bay window. She wanted traditional with just a little drama (drama is otherwise known as trim). Understated but elegant was her description. We found an out of print valance pattern on eBay and got to work. First, we picked out fabric. Mom wanted a tonal damask pattern in a satin or satin-like look in gold. We found this lightly patterned fabric a year or so back from a designer lot on (Helpful tip: If you are looking for a jacquard woven damask search for "Damask" then narrow down your search by selecting "Home Décor" and then "Jacquard" on the left side bar). Here is a similar fabric from Duralee.  

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The one drawback from the beautiful fabric was because it was a poly satin it had much more drape than we wanted and needed for our pattern. Our pattern was structured with any drape from the swags given with careful shaping not from the fall of the fabric. We wanted each swag to be precise so we decided to add interfacing. Mom and I chose a medium weight sew-in interfacing because the fabric was a medium (almost apparel weight) and needed just a little bit of structure. Too much would have made the shaping of the swags impossible and stiff. I prefer to match my interfacing to the weight of my fabric. We also decided on sew-in because fusible can sometimes trap bubbles between the fabric and the interfacing and also can distort the fabric as it is being heated and pressed into place. Sew-in adds the structure we needed by preserves the shape of the pattern with no distortion and allows the fabric to be more easily manipulated.

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The final piece of the puzzle was the batten (this is the board that is used to attach the valance to the wall). Some valances can use a simple curtain rod to hang but most call for a batten. However, when you go and ask for a batten at a home improvement store, most sales people will look at you like you spoke a foreign language and explaining what you plan to use it for and its general purpose will not help your case. It is easier to ask in the lumber section for a 1" by 3" board. While this is wider than most battens it is close enough and will get the job done. We used three 1" by 3"s and some L-brackets to attach the valance to the wall. The valance is stapled to the top of the battens. Cutting your batten into multiple pieces will allow you to shape your valance to your window shape if you have an odd configuration like a bay window or two or more windows on a corner. 

Check back for my next Home Dec project: a grand, padded upholstered great room valance. Check our instagram feed for progress photos. 

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Sparkle Preservation Tactics

March 30, 2014

LI-glitz-bag.jpgWhen Michael Miller Glitz came in, I was all awiggle. I am a total magpie and love any kind of sparkle or shimmer, so I instantly wanted to make all kinds is things with the pretty golden accented fabrics.

But I know all too well that life can abuse fabrics with pearlescent and metallic accents. So something like a dress, which would require frequent washing, was not going to work for me. 

I really liked the idea of a bag with golden chevrons, but bags in my world also take a beating. And then it hit me: Protect it with vinyl!

For this project I used a chevron stripe in gold and pink, a set of Cindy's Leather Purse Straps (adorable -- why have I never used these before?), 6 guage clear vinyl, and Perfection Fused Leather for the piping. This project, which is from Sara Lawson's "Big City Bags" also requires several different interfacings



For every piece I cut from my Glitz fabric, I cut a matching piece in the clear vinyl. AFTER I fused my interfacings, I layered the vinyl on top of the Glitz, basted around the edges, and treated it like one piece of fabric from there on out. I opted to go this route instead of using a fusible vinyl because I wasn't confident about how the metallic would behave. In my swatch tests, it seemed like the gold dulled a bit with the fusible, and I want to keep as much shiny sparkle as possible. I was worried that over time, the sparkle would suffer even more.

1-glitz-bag.jpgAssembly difficulty was upped a little bit by the extra layer, but as is usually the case, it's nothing that a little patience can't get you through. (Turning it right-so-out was a pretty hilarious dance for me.) Attaching the purse straps is super simple -- it just involves a wee bit of hand stitching, and they look fantastic. 

1a-glitz-bag.jpgSo now I'm ready to head out into the world with a super fun (and sparkly!) bag on my arm. It's got a good amount of interior space -- I carried mine around while running errands today with my phone, wallet, small cosmetic bag and media wallet and still had loads of space left. And because I used leather for the piping and handles, I can just wipe down periodically to clean my new bag. 

And now I'm dreaming up a dozen more projects that involve layering vinyl over a fabric that would otherwise need a lot of TLC. 


Embroidery Secrets

March 28, 2014


I'm a big fan of embroidery but I haven't always been. I've always enjoyed the relaxing technique, the color choices and the small, quiet, repetitive sounds from needle puncturing fabric but the pattern choices always turned me off. There are only so many mice scampering across 20 yr. old computer screen housing cute witticisms that I can work on before my brain just says "NO, no more!" Even with patterns that I love you can only use them so many times. What if I want to embroidery that flamenco dancer more than nine times? What's a girl to do?

So today I want to share my secrets for creating my own embroidery patterns that you can use easily to break out of the standard pattern rut. These secrets can be adapted for existing embroidery patterns or to make your own. All you need is some muslin/light colored fabric (dark colored or patterned fabric secrets are coming in May), a light box/ sunny window, and a water soluble marker.

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I love to use coloring pages as embroidery patterns because the designs are not overly detailed and look great once worked in embroidery floss. Coloring pages are abundant and easily accessible. You can find any design you want for any project, just type it into the search box of your search engine. Here's an example: if you are looking for a giraffe silhouette just type in giraffe silhouette coloring page into your search engine and select from hundreds or thousands of images.


Print out your coloring page and edit the size on a copy machine, copy center or using photo editing software. Tape your image to your light source. You can use a sunny window or a light box. Lay your fabric over your image (I used muslin). Then using your water soluble marker trace your design. The design should be visible through your fabric. However, if it is a cloudy/rainy day and you simply cannot wait, then use this tutorial to whip up an overhead projector (you already have plenty of boxes around). Once your design is traced you can stitch over your marker and then spray it away when you are done. Simple.IMG_5501.JPG

You needn't be limited to just coloring pages or your old patterns either. I downloaded a picture of a free Sashiko pattern and blew it up 200% to create my 16'' x 20'' design that I plan to hang over my bed. You can use this technique for your children's drawings, handwritten letters or family photos. Just be sure you have plenty of muslin because this is addicting. Don't forget you can easily dye you muslin if you want another color.   


You can find my Family Tree Coloring page here

Explore my other coloring sheet projects

Ruffle Knit Skirt

March 19, 2014

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It's getting warm and my daughter is asking for shorts and skirts. She had a super cute layered ruffle knit skirt last year that I wanted to recreate this year but add some shorts underneath. I am so pleased with the results.

Size 12-18 mo, (24 mo, 3T, 4T and 5T) [Shown in Size 5T]

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All seams are ½ unless otherwise noted. Please note: measure your child for the elastic size and cut a piece of 1'' wide elastic to that size minus 1''. I used 1.5 yds of Heather Ross Briar Rose Jersey Knit.

To complete the shorts I used the same modification of the Barbara Bloomers (a Create Kids Couture Free Pattern Download) but subtracted 2'' off the length.


Cut the pieces according to your desired size using my worksheet ruffle knit skirt.pdf. With right sides together sew all ruffle pieces to their mates along the short sides until you have several tube. Repeat for each tier piece. Run a gathering stitch ¼'' and 3/8'' from the top edge of each ruffle and pull to gather. Match the width of the top ruffle to the width of the middle tier, the width of the middle ruffle and bottom ruffle to the width of the bottom tier. With the right side of the tier facing the wrong side of the ruffle, Pin the top ruffle to the top edge of the middle tier and stitch in place. Pin the middle ruffle to the top edge of the bottom tier and stitch in place. Pin the bottom ruffle to the bottom edge of the bottom tier and stitch in place.

Pin the top edge of the bottom tier to the bottom edge of the middle tier, right sides together and stitch in place. Pin the top of the middle tier to the bottom of the top tier and stitch in place.

Complete your shorts according to the pattern instruction except do not finish the top. Place your shorts (right side out) inside the skirt and pin the top edges together. DO NOT match seams. You want to side seams of the skirt to match the sides of the shorts so you will need to measure and mark the sides on the shorts for matching. Stitch around the top. Attach your elastic to the top of your waist (I used the Fehr Trader's method from this post) and then flip your your elastic waist down and topstitch in place.

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Complete your skirt by finishing your ruffle hems with either no finish, a double turned hem, a rolled hem or simply serge the edge. I hemmed the shorts using my twin needle

This is a truly fun skirt, perfect for play, parties and warm weather fun!ruffle skirt2.jpg

Product of the Month: Pellon Knit Tape

March 10, 2014


Pellon Knit Tape is an interesting product which I love. I first heard about knit tape in one of my many sewing periodicals and again more recently in one my Craftsy classes: Meg McElwee's Sewing with Knits I decided to try it for myself. It is a thin, fusible webbing that is used to stabilize and strengthen knit fabric. It can be used around necklines, armholes, shoulders, waists and hems. sells 1 ½'' wide by 30 yds longs in both black and white. It is fusible which is great for knits since they can be so shifty when sewing so a sew-in interface is a no-go in my book. The set width is nice since you can also use it as a guide. I decided I would use it to stabilize and enforce the elastic waist band of a layered knit skirt I have coming soon to the blog.


IMG_5880.JPGIMG_5881.JPGIMG_5883.JPGI started by get out my sewing ham because I found with the small waist size of the skirt (it is a size 5 child) that it would not fit over the end of my sewing board without stretching. I then pressed any curl out of the jersey knit which was facing wrong side up. Next, I placed the knit tape fusible side down (that is the rougher side. The smooth side is to be face up) right on the top edge of the fabric and lightly pressed down with my iron. I did this all the way around, being careful to press my seams allowance to the desired direction before fusing my knit tape in place. This will help keep the seam allowance to stay in place. I cut my piece to end right at the edge of the beginning so there would not be any extra thickness or stiffness. I sergered around the top of the waist band further securing the knit tape in place and trimming off ¼''. Then, using my finger I felt for the other edge of the tape and folded the waist band down along this edge and pinned it in place all the way around. Using a triple stretch stitch I sewed all the way around the folded waist band stopping 2-3'' before the beginning. I feed my bodkin and the elastic through and was careful not to twist the 1'' elastic. Finally I stitched the ends of my elastic together (and of, course I was rewarded with the ever constant bobbin bird's nest from sewing on elastic). Then I stitch the opening closed and gave my waist band a few test stretches. I will let you see the final result in a few weeks when I debut the skirt.



IMG_5890.JPGBack (thread nest!)

I have to say I am liking how it feels so far. The waist feels stronger, more able to withhold the rigors of a 5 yr. old's dressing whimsies, constant washing and general running around. I don't see this waist sagging, looking depleted or wearing thin. I can't wait to show you the whole completed skirt and share all the places I decided needed a little stabilizing with Pellon Knit Tape

P.s. Please share your tips on avoiding the dreaded thread nest when sewing elastic. I thought I had tried everything but nothing I can think of has worked. 

What's that Notion: Sticky Back Fusible Web

February 26, 2014

Sticky Back Fusible Web is one notion you didn't know you couldn't live without. It has many uses and is customizable to use for just about any project you can think of. I love it and am always finding new uses for it. However, my favorite ways to use Sticky Back Fusible Web is for adding slot seam zippers and quick hems. Here's how:

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Stitch your seam together where the zipper will go. Press the seam allowance open. Mark on the wrong side of the fabric the zipper placement and cut 2 pieces of sticky back fusible web the same length and ½'' wide. With the non-sticky side down, place each piece of web on each side of the seam on the seam allowance and press in place. Peel up the backing and center zipper on seam and between markings. The zipper will stay in place without pins while sewing in place with a zipper foot. Stitch straight down one side, across the bottom right below the zipper stop and back up the other side. I like to open up the seam down the zipper as I am sewing up the second side so when I get close to the top I can open the zipper without raising both my needle and my foot. I can just raise my foot leaving my needle in place and move the slide out of my way as I finish up the second side.  Finish ripping open the seam and you're done. Now you have a perfectly finished slot seam zipper that is sewn and topstitched in one step.

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Cut 1'' pieces of sticky back fusible and place them sticky side down along the edge of your project on the wrong side. Fold your hem up using the web as a guide and press in place. Topstitch your hem in place. Voila, so easy. No measuring, no pinning and no hem rulers!

Doorway Drapes

February 21, 2014

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My mom loves to tell me about her childhood and summers spent at her grandmother's house in Pennsylvania. She goes on in detail about all the furnishing when something sparks her memory. One day as the weather started to turn cold this past year my mom was commenting on the draft that comes through her media room from the attic alcove. It drives the temperate down several degrees making it an uncomfortable room in the wintertime. While we were discussing this I suggested putting drapes up over the doorway to keep the draft out because I had recently seen something similar on pinterest. I could see the lightbulb turn on in her eyes. Mom told me how her grandmother had curtains in the doorway between her living room and dining room. "Everyone had doorway curtains back then. It was just standard in decorating. It helped keep the house warm" she recalled. We decided then and there doorway drapes were the solution. The finished double wide curtain panel has made all the difference in the media room. It is staying toasty now and makes a great gathering place for family movie night.

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To make your own you will need:

First up, measure your doorway. Measure how wide and tall you want your finished drapes to be. Double that width because most pleat tapes need twice the width. Also add a double turned side hems. I used 2'' for each double turned side hem (1/2'' for the first turn and 1.2'' for the second) but some prefer 4'' (that is ½'' for the first turn then 3.5'' for the second). For the length add a 2'' top hem to your finished length plus your desired bottom hem length. I prefer a deep 4'' hem plus ½ turn under so I added 4.5''. You don't need to double turn the top or make it very deep since the pleat tape will add stability and will cover the raw edge.

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Sew together any panels that you need to gain your width and then fold over 2'' along the top and baste in place. Pin the pleat tape ½'' down from the top edge of your curtain on the wrong side. You will see sewing guide lines on your pleat tape. Sew along the top and bottom of the pleat tape on these lines.  Remove basting stitches. Create the pleats you desire. I went with a triple pleat because I liked the formal look it gave and thought that complemented the tapestry fabric. After I assembled my pleats on the back side I took them over to the iron and steamed the pleats in place and finally gave each a small tacking stitch at the base of each pleat to give it a polish, formal look. An untacked pleat looks more casual.

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Back of curtain, pleats assembled

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Front of pleats before pressing and tacking. A very casual look. 

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Here I am tacking my pleats. You can see the 3 folds under my presser foot. 

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After tacking. Much cleaner and defined pleats

Next, I hemmed the bottom of the panel and finally the sides. I prefer to hem the sides last because it seals off the top and bottom hem and eliminates any pockets that can gather dust, dirt or even bugs. Lastly, I added the curtain hooks by placing each one in the middle of the triple pleat so the hook could support the pleat and hung them on a basic flat rod. Eventually my mom wants to make a tie back for frequent trips to the alcove which is common at Christmas time since she keeps her decorations back in the attic but for now she is content to keep the drafts at bay.

For more info on our Drapery tape check out my December 2013 post when it was Product of the Month.

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Product of the Month: Twin Needle

February 14, 2014


This month's product of the month is the Schmetz Twin Needle. This notion is great for hemming knit garments and gives an elastic but professional finish to your knit edges. The twin needle creates a double row of straight stitching on the right side and a zig zag stitch on the wrong side which is very similar to the cover stitch found on most ready-to-wear knit garments. Twin needles are also great for pin tucks on wovens but that is another post that can be found here. I love the results achieved by the twin needle for hemming knits. I was so over the standard zig zag stitch: it didn't look as neat, professional and it often rippled as I stitched it up. The twin straight stitch adds the finish I love and drastically reduces the rippling. However, I did have a serious issue with tension on my Brother he-120 so I am including all the tips I tried in case you have similar issues.


Let's get started

First my main issue was with my upper thread being too loose and my bobbin being too tight. Even with my tension disc set all the way to 9 (this is where I set it when stitching gathering rows so the bobbin should have been loose as a goose) I was still seeing some upper thread on the wrong side and my zig zag was not taunt. So I tried rethreading just in case it was my error. No change. Then I tried centering my needles instead of just moving them to the slight left of center to clear my foot. I thought if the needle were centered then the zig zag would be pull on both upper threads evenly. No change.


A missed stitch!!


Still wonky

Next, I tried stitching with some light weight paper under my fabric in case it was an issue with the feed dogs. No change. I saw slight improvement when I moved the paper on top of the fabric but not enough.


With paper on top of fabric

I then tried using my walking foot and while I saw no change in my tension issue I did see that the tunneling effect was greatly reduced. So the right side appearance was much nicer but the wrong side was not correct and looked "off". Next I tried lengthen in the stitch length. This helped but only slightly but gave a better result on the right side.


Longer stitch length

I decided to take a chance and threaded my bobbin again but this time I did not run it through the guide but I just pulled it up through the needle plate. Since the bobbin tension was too tight I thought this would loosen it up. It worked great and gave me the tension I needed.

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Left: the usual threading of the bobbin
Right: the less tension method 


This was a very time consuming experiment that involved two machines (the tension issue occurred on two Brother machines) I had to keep tweaking and sewing, tweaking and sewing but finally I was able to create the correct tension and next time it will be so easy to hem my knit garments. Thank goodness spring is coming!

 I have found many posts around the blogosphere that give tips on using the twin needle on knits but only a few were truly helpful. Here are a few of those I found good reads and warmly recommend. Please add you tips in our comment section with how you achieve good results with your twin needle.


A Stitching Odyssey

Made by Rae

Knitting with Beads

January 31, 2014


Great beauty comes with great challenge was never more true than working with beads. Knitting with beads is my white whale. I love the outcome but it is not the most enjoyable knitting for me. Others love it but not me. However, the finished product does make it worth it and I do love beaded knits. Oh do I! Many of my friends and family do as well so I grin and bear it but it is tricky work. Beads are slippery, elusive and seem to have a mind of their own. They will deceive you into thinking you have them right where you want them only to work a row and find they are somewhere else. Luckily beads are easy manipulated. Beads are so beautiful that any amount of funny business is worth it. IMG_5361.JPG

Preparing to knit with beads is not difficult. When pressed I would say that no part of knitting with beads is difficult just tricky. To knit with beads you must first string your beads. You can knit with just about any size bead as long as you find a yarn that will fit inside the bead. I find that lace/fingering weight yarn works the best. This doesn't restrict you to only fingering weight patterns. You can pair your beaded fingering yarn with any other weight of yarn, just knit with both yarns together. I first paired my lace weight beaded yarn with another skein of the same yarn. Two lace weight strands together was the equivalent of one strand of fingering weight so I worked with a size 4 needle.

However, I didn't like the finished weight so I paired my beaded lace weight yarn with DK weight and that gave me the equivalent of a light worsted weight yarn and I worked it on a size 6 needle. 


To string your beads you will need a tapestry needle that will fit inside your beads. I used a size 6/0 seed bead that I purchased online. This is the most popular size (it is about the size of half a grain of rice). My beads were pre-strung which was very helpful. I just threaded my needle with my yarn and strung the beads while they were still on their original string. Once all beads were strung I clipped the original string. I didn't have to deal with beads scattered all over my table and they were all lined up ready to go. Your pattern will tell you how many beads to string. Every once in a while you will come across a bead that won't fit on your needle; just skip it and string the next bead. When you clip your original string all the faulty beads will fall to the table.

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Once all your beads are strung lead out a good bit of yarn from the ball and push your beads all the way down. You will have to do this repeatedly as you use of the lead yarn. You will pull up a bead as you need it. Once you get to a beaded stitch, pull up a bead close to the needle and work it into the stitch you are knitting. It should sit in the middle of the loop you created. If it doesn't you can manipulate it on the next row. Sometimes a bead will pop over to the back side. Just push it through later on; it is not a big deal and easily fixed.


Beads can be added to any pattern to add sparkle to any detail you like. Add them to your collar, the tops of pockets, sleeve cuffs, blanket edgings, hat brims or shawls. I recommend if you are starting out to pair your yarn with a DK or bigger weight yarn so you can easily see your loops, bead placement and to get a feel working with beads. You will love the result whether or not you enjoy the process.  

Check out Ravelry for great beaded patterns in all sizes.


Easy-peasy lounge pants

January 24, 2014


We work hard and when it's time to relax we want to do that hard as well. When we go to work we wear work clothes, when we go someplace nice we wear nice clothes and when we relax we wear relaxing clothes.


I don't mess around with my lounge clothes. I want soft. I want comfy. I also want cute; it makes me feel good. But, and please bear with me, I don't always want yoga pants. Wait, don't stop reading. The only reason I say that is because sometimes, just sometimes, I want a slimmer fit. Some days, I am clumsy and the wider leg of my yoga pants is not condusive to walking, running after kids or even watching a good movie. So I created an alternative version for those days. You decided for yourself or better yet make both so you can have another reason to relax.


I started with my previous yoga pants pattern that we drafted back here but from the just above the knee down I tapered the leg all the way down to the ankle taking off an 1.5'' on the inside and outside of each leg. This is not enough to give the pant a tapered look when wearing, it appears as a straight leg when worn. I cut the pattern pieces out of ITY Jersey Knit Fabric and stitched the two front pieces together at the crotch. All seams are 1/4'' unless otherwise noted. 

Next, cut 4 patch pockets from printed Jersey Knit Fabric using this pattern piece and with right sides together stitch two pieces together leaving the top open for turning. Press. You can finish the top with your serger, bias trim or fold over and top stitch. Repeat for second pocket. Pin pockets to the front of your pants 1'' from the top and 1.5'' from the center seam. Top stitch each pocket in place. 

Finish assembling the pants by sewing the two back pieces together at the crotch seam (right sides together) then stitch the side seams, inseam and assemble the yoga band and stitch it to the top of the pants. (see this previous post for instructions). Finish the bottom legs with a turned hem. 


Now cut four pieces of 1/4'' elastic to 4'' long. With pants right side out, pin one piece of elastic 1'' above bottom hem on the side seam. Using a small zig zag stitch (your machine may have a elastic zig zag stitch, see your manual) start sewing about 1/2'' from the edge of the elastic, back stitching in place. Sew for about 1/4'' then start stretching the elastic. Keep sewing and stretching until you reach the last 1/2'' of elastic then back stitch in place and clip your threads. Repeat for the remaining piece on that leg and the other 2 pieces of elastic on the other leg. This will give you a ruched effect at the bottom of each leg. 

These lounge pants are just the thing for hanging out, running errands, making sure you don't look like you just rolled out of bed to drop off your kids at school though you totally did, pajama pants, and yoga pants. Add your own style with different pocket shapes or add length to your pants and increase the length of the elastic for a greater ruching effect. The pockets are just the right size to fit an MP3 player, cell phone, lip balm or to hide chocolate candies which you can eat unseen during a movie. 

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