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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:
Slot Seam Zippers:
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.
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!
February 21, 2014
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.
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.
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.
Back of curtain, pleats assembled
Front of pleats before pressing and tacking. A very casual look.
Here I am tacking my pleats. You can see the 3 folds under my presser foot.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
January 10, 2014
You may have seen this month's product countless times but have you really noticed it. It stabilizes your t-shirt shoulders so your sleeves don't end up on your waist. It keeps the stretch in your knit dress' waists. It is also used as hanging loops for your beloved jersey LBD (Little Black Dress). It has many uses but do you use it? A few month's back my mom made a t-shirt topped twirly dress for my oldest daughter. My daughter loved it but was only able to wear it once. Why? Because the skirt pulled on the top too much and holes started to appear at the waist seam. I told my mom and she went through a slew of declarations that included:
I used the correct size needle
My tension was perfect
I used a stretch stitch
I even used a brand new stretch needle!
I assured her it was nothing that she did. She needed to add clear elastic to the waist as a stabilizer. "But that wasn't in the pattern" she replied. I know, I know it rarely is. Clear elastic is a key notion needed for sewing knit garments but I rarely see it in pattern instructions. Perhaps this post can get the word out that although not mentioned, it is best to be safe and order some clear elastic for any knit garments you are making. Add it to shoulder seams (sew it inside the seam allowance so it doesn't show on the right side of the garment), gathered waists (pulling on the elastic while you sew it in place will create great gathers) and necklines. It will prevent the floppy look that knits can adopt when under strain for too long or stretched out. The clear elastic helps by absorbing some of the stretch of the area and then it bounces back, helping the knit fabric to recover as well. Clear elastic is tricky to work with at first because it is more rubbery than the more common elastic and you must use one hand to steer the elastic and one to steer the fabric but it doesn't take long to get the hang of it. I used a stretch stitch that my machine's manual suggested for sewing on elastic and a stretch needle as opposed to a ball point. The stretch needle pierces the elastic better than a ball point and I don't have to switch needle to sew the rest of my garment.
January 9, 2014
I love casseroles. I really really love them. While I do love to cook I am not about 30 ingredients and several hours of tastings and seasonings. I love chopping a few things, throwing them in a dish and tossing that into the oven. 20-40 minutes later I expect my nose to be in ecstasy and shortly there after my belly to be full and happy. Soooo, since I am such a casserolian I realized one day that I need a mode of transportation for my beloved one dish wonders. The glass lids on my corningware are not suitable for car trips so I improvised something that ended up doing the job but was a one-way venture only. I was lucky enough to be dropping off a casserole to a friend who happened to have a casserole carrier she inherited from her grandmother. I stole it quickly and used it until it disintergrated. In this post I will remake this carrier and show you how to make your own to fit your casserole dishes. I made mine out of only lightweight cotton but feel free to add insultating batting.
1) Grab your biggest casserole dish and place it on a large sheet of paper (I used the butt end of a roll of newspaper print) and trace your dish, rounding any sharp edges. Next, measure the height of your dish, divide it in half and add that all around your traced shape. Add your seam allowance (I prefer 1/2'') all around. Cut out your pattern piece.
2) On a fold piece of quilting cotton (I used Clothworks), trace your pattern piece and cut it out. You should have 2 pieces, a top and a bottom. Set your bottom piece aside. On your top piece, measure and mark 3.5'' in all around your piece. With a fabric marker connect all these marking until you have a shape similar to your top piece. Cut it out so you have a hole in the middle of your top piece and the remaining top piece is 3.5'' wide.
3) Cut 2 straps 15'' long by 4'' wide. Fold strap in half lengthwise and press. Open and fold each long side toward the center and press. Fold the strap in half again with raw long edges tucking toward the center fold and press again. Top stitch down the strap on both sides. Repeat for second strap. Fold your top piece in half along the length and mark the center. Pin each strap short end 2-3'' from the center mark on either side of the center mark, matching the raw short ends with the outside edge of the top piece. Baste straps in place. With wrong sides together, pin and stitch the top piece to the bottom piece.
4) Cut 4 yds of 2'' wide bias trim from a coordinating solid quilting cotton and 1 yd of 4'' wide bias trim. Press both trim pieces into a double fold. Using the 2'' trim apply it to the outside raw edge of the casserole carrier. Apply the 4'' bias trim to the inside hole of the casserole carrier leaving a 2'' gap for the drawstring. Serge or zig zag stitch the remaining 2'' bias trim to use as the drawstring. Thread it through the casing your created with the 4'' bias trim with a bodkin or a safety pin. Knot each end several times until the knot is bigger than the opening. Place your casserole in your carrier and pull the drawstring. It will tighten the whole carrier around your dish to secure it and the lid in place. This carrier can adjust to any shape dish. I've used mine for oblong and round. It is great and very handy.
December 18, 2013
The joy of home decor is that there are so many short cuts, tools and cool notions that make interesting details a piece of cake to pull off. This can come in the form of hem tape, roman shade ring tape or giant plastic grommets that install without a press. One of my favorites is pleat tape. It is a wonderful multi tool that gives a professional look without a lot of work. Pleat tape can help give a professional finish at the top of draperies, can make pleating easy and includes a slot for metal hooks that the drapes hang from. It is suprisingly easy to work with. All you need is enough tape to go across the top of each curtain panel. Be sure to order a bit extra because you want to start the tape the same distance from the first pleat on all curtain panels.
To apply your tape hem the sides of each curtain panel and fold down the top edge of the curtain. You don't need to double fold the top edge since any raw edges will be under the pleat tape. Pin the pleat tape in place on your curtain panel and sew along the stitch lines provided on the top. You will notice these lines are in a contrasting thread on the tape. This will ensure that you do not sew on the cord used to pull up your pleats or on the pockets the metal hanging hooks sit in. Once your pleat tape is securely stitched in place gently pull the cords in the pleat tape with even pressure. These cords work like pulling the bobbin threads to create gathers. The pleat tape and the weight of the fabric make it thick so you may need to help each pleat to slide along the cord. Once you have all your pleats in place and looking nice, knot off your cord. You can stitch parallel to these cords at each end to secure them but do not cut them off. Should you even wish to let down the pleats for cleaning you can pick out your stitches and then unknot the cords. This is very helpful for drycleaning.
Using pleat tape can save hours of measureing, pinning and stitching and give a quality, professional finish everytime. I recommend it for every room. Even if you do not pleat the drapes, the tape helps to stablize the top of drapes for a clean look and an easy way to hang your drapes.
December 16, 2013
We're officially down to the wire. If you're still hoping to make gifts this year, you're going to have to hustle!
In case you're still pondering what to concoct for someone on your list, we have a few ideas if you've got someone who loves accessories. Leather and faux leather continue to trend, so why not whip up a few hair accoutrements for someone special? Here are four ideas:
1. Leather Hair Bow
Start with a piece of 4-by-4-inch leather. I used Perfection Fused Leather for mine, because the light weight and supple nature of it makes it easy to work with and turn. If you're using a heavier leather or vinyl, you might want to go a bit bigger to avoid major frustration. So long as you start with a square, this technique will work.
Fold your square in half, right sides together, and stitch along the raw edges opposite the fold, leaving about a 2-inch gap in the middle of your seam.
Then realign the tube you just stitched so the first seam sits about centered along one side. Stitch each end closed.
Turn your closed tube right side out. These things tend to keep air in, so it will likely be a bit pillowy. Set this piece aside.
Next, cut a piece of leather about 1.5 by 4 inches. This will get cut shorter, but I find it easier to work with a little extra length and then cut.
Fold in one side of your leather the long way and hot glue into place. Don't use too much glue -- you don't want to create bulk.
Then fold in the remaining side and glue it down, again being careful to add glue sparingly.
Once the glue of this folded piece has completely dried, cut it down to about 2.5 inches long.
Join the two ends together and stitch, creating a small loop. In the photo below, you can see the remnants of the tissue paper I used to cover the loop while I stitched -- this prevents the leather from sticking under your machine's presser foot.
Turn the loop right side out.
Pull your tube that you assembled earlier throught the loop. This takes a little cajoling. Because the leather tends to want to stay in place, you don't even need to glue it at this point. You can if you like, but leave the back of the bow free. Thread a narrow headband through your bow loop, and you're all done! Easy peasy!
2. Simple Gathered Flower
Cut a piece of leather about 1 inch wide and 20 or so inches long.
Hand sew a running stitch along one of the long edges, and then gather tightly to create a ruffly flower.
Stitch the gathered circle closed.
Glue a circle of felt to the back of the flower.
Glue on a button to cover the gathered center.
Now the flower's complete, and it's time to make a clip to attach it to!
Start with a simple clip.
Next, fold you ribbon to cover the upper side of the clip and glue in place.
Fold your ribbon under the picher part of the clip and trim it to fit. Daub a bit of glue on the underside of the top clip pincher and catch your ribbon into place.
Glue the grosgrain covered side of your clip to your accessory, and you're all set.
3. Leather Rose
This one works well if the back side of your leather is nice. The Perfection Fused Leather is perfect here.
I used daubs of hot glue to keep things in place as I went -- you can see on the back it's a bit of a mess. But a felt circle covers all sins in this instance, and a clip makes it hair-ready.
4. Glittery Vinyl Star Stack
Cut several starts out of leather or vinyl. I used Sparkle Vinyl.
Glue your stars together in a strip. You can go in a straight line or an arc, all aligned the same way or turned slightly askew -- it's up to you!
Glue a small strip of felt to the back of your star grouping.
Then glue on a clip, and you're all set!
Clip-backed accessories are great because they can be attached to all kinds of things. They can clip directly into a hairstyle or onto aheadband. They can spruce up a handbag strap or we worn on a shirt. They can even clip to a bracelet. The ultimate versatile gift!
Test out other shapes and ideas for your leather accessories -- flowers, concentric circles to create bullseyes, hearts -- whatever your mind can conjure. They key in any hand-made gift is that it's something made especially by you.
November 21, 2013
If you haven't yet checked out the new selection of pillows, pads and stuffing that Fabric.com has in stock than you are sorely denying your stash and missing out. My favorite new products are the Nu-Foam Bumper Pads. I recently had a chance to work with them when I created some crib bedding in bright colors from some Amy Butler and Premier Print Fabrics. A few years ago when I had my first born I created some bumpers from poly fill stuffing and the results was great and did the job but it was nothing on the professional look and feel that I achieved with the Nu-Foam pads. Plus since the pads are pre-cut and all set to go I didn't have to measure or cut which saved a few hours at the least and I was confident that everything would all measure up. Couple that with the great Sew-4-Home tutorial that I used and it was a home run. I did modifiy the pattern just a touch by swapping the flat piping in for the large piping and I left my turn/stuffing gap for the bottom of the bumper pad not the side as suggested to hide the seam more but the results were still gorgeous. The bumper pads were a piece of cake to work with as well. I rounded the corners just as in the tutorial and just cut the pads with a regular 60mm rotary cutter and it cut fine.
I can recommend this product as a great beginner project because it is so simple and the results are very encouraging. It is hard not to get great results with Nu-Foam Bumper Pads. They are actually a thick batting, not foam, which means you do not need to add batting to get a soft, smooth result. Any irregularities in cutting disappear and the result is very professional. These pads would also work well as small window seat cushions, built-in eating area back cushions or for those Pinterest nap mats.