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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.
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 6, 2013
I have been on a sweater knitting rampage lately which is weird because I prefer fast knits. However, I went on a bit of a hiatus after my second baby was born; it's tough to imagine but I just didn't have the time. But I have grown accustomed to two kids and I needed my knitting fix again so I have been burning through sweater patterns. One trend I have noticed that has been giving me a challange is invisible increases that, well, aren't invisible. No increase can truely be invisible because you are adding a stitch-creating something from nothing. But some of these invisble increases are very visible and in a most distrubing way. They all tend to leave holes in my sweater, like a yarn over increase but smaller. I have tried video's, blogs and forums to figure out the way around this and have found nothing. I was left to solve it on my own. The answer came one night while I was night by the fire. Knitting makes me relaxed and sleepy at night so I accidentally increased on the wrong side of my cardigan but didn't notice until the next morning. I was shocked and excited not because I had to frog all the way back to my collar (which I did any way just to fix my holes) but because the increase was less visible when done on the opposite side.
November 17, 2013
I'm always on the lookout for a good faux suede. Often, faux suedes never quite fulfill my desires. I want super ultra soft, but also easy to stitch. I want it to feel luxurious without breaking the bank.
The Redford Faux Suede that's now in stock not only meets all those requirements for me, but it ALSO has some shimmer to it. Heaven! The finish on this is so luxe -- it feels amazing to the touch. The drape is fab because the fabric isn't super heavy. It has a great flow to it.
I decided to make a swingy skirt with this fabric. I opted for the shortest version of Simplicity 1500. Since I'm only 5'3" tall, the shortest version comes to just above the knee on me.
One of the fun things about the finish on this fabric is the visual delight of it. Because it has natural variation, you get a lovely effect. There's also little to no fraying.
But, just like regular leather, it benefits from some special handling. Some may find that it wants to stick to the presser foot or plate while stitching, so you may want to use tissue paper layers to sandwich the fabric and prevent drag. And, if you remove stitches, you can have residual holes showing, as seen below. A little gentle rubbing takes care of most holes, but a little extra care and patience will help prevent ever needing to think about it.
I found I could iron this fabric on a low-medium heat setting, but I don't recommend doing so on the foiled side of the fabric, as it does change the texture a bit. But it irons beautifully, and the result is nice, crisp edges.
I also wanted to give you an idea of what stitching looks like the faux suede finish. The hem of this skirt is just folded up and straight stitched; this is what it looks like on the exterior of the garment:
And here's the finished skirt:
I'm glad I stuck to a pattern with simple lines -- this fabric has so much visual play thanks to the gold finish, it might look really overly-fussy if there were a lot of piecing. This fabric makes for such a statement piece, I will probably stick to a solid black shirt and tights with black boots when wearing this skirt.
My scraps were too pretty to toss, so I thought I'd let our cats in on some stylish fun. I used a buckle set from a worn-out collar to make a new one, and the model seems quite happy with the result.
My remaining scraps are absolutely going to get used up! I see many possibilities, so you may see this fabric pop up again in accessory posts. I also feel a strong urge to order another color for a jacket. Maybe red ...
November 3, 2013
Making myself a leather jacket has been on the sewing bucket list for years -- YEARS -- but it always gets deprioritized for other things or because I feel like I don't have the time to devote to the careful stitching that leather requires or the cash to buy a hide. So you can see why I'd be so excited to play with this new yummy textile. This leather is lightweight and has a rayon backing, making it much easier to sew than unbacked leathers.
I selected a pattern with clean, simple lines -- Simplicity 2341 -- and simplified it further by eliminating the trim and combining the snap collar of view A and the zippered pockets of view C. I also decided to line the jacket (I used a purple satin), which is not called for in the pattern.
You'll want to set your stitch length a little longer than you would set it for sewing woven fabrics. Even though the backing fabric reinforces and supports the leather, you still don't want to perforate it any more than necessary.
A lot of people like to use binder clips in lieu of pins when working with leather, because pins can leave holes in your fabric.
For my sleeve lining, I cut leather facings and stitched them to the bottom edges of the lining pieces before assembling the jacket. That way, the interior of my finished sleeve edge still shows leather rather than lining.
I'm really pleased with how this project turned out, and I am in LOVE with the supple, buttery fused leather. As is almost always the case when I find a new textile I love, now I want to make something else (or many something elses) with it!
October 11, 2013
I have stumbled upon a great site: the Craft Mom. It is a mix of Coupon Mom meets Martha Stewart. It has everything a crafty person could need: daily craft coupon, sale and discount alerts, product reviews and crafty project tutorials. It is awesome. The Craft Mom was created by two ladies Lorrie and Julia. It is great sewing and knitting resource.
Everyday there are several posts on fresh craft/fabric/yarn store sales, discount codes and coupons. This is my favorite post because I love saving a buck and usually when I do score a coupon or a code I am able to convinve myself that it means I can put a little more in my cart because I'm saving. You can also find upcoming craft shows, events, charities and parties.
On the projects and tutorial page you can find pictures and links to some great, fun projects from around the web. The Craft Mom doesn't have any in-house projects but provides an avenue to find good projects and introduce you to new blogs, crafters, and materials.
The project reviews are in-house and usually result in a give-a-way (Hooray). Each items that is sent to the Craft Mom or used in a review is carefully considered and written about genuinely. I have already adding a few things to my wish list and my christmas gift list.
Finally, you can find a page dedicated to Kids' crafts; it is called the Craft Mom after all. This is, again, a collection of various fun and colorful kids friendly projects from around the web. This is a great resource for the upcoming holidays to give your kids something to do, allow them to contribute to holiday decortations and to have fun activites for the days off of school.
This should be your new first stop in the morning when checking on your facebook page and email. If you are going to craft then you need to read the Craft Mom.
September 24, 2013
I have been not-so-patiently waiting for this year's Halloween freebie pattern from Hot Patterns. When it landed in my inbox, I'm pretty sure I squealed aloud. What makes me love this one so very much? It can work its wiles long after the holiday has passed! You can make it up in sparkly, costumey fabrics, but it's also completely able to blend into your year-round wardrobe when you make it out of versatile wardrobe fabrics. And it's made for knits (loooove!). AND it involves no hemming (double looove!).
The first thing you'll notice when you assemble your pattern is that there's a lot more curve to the skirt pieces than you're probably used to. This is where the magic is -- it sets this one apart from the pack. Even though it's a fairly simple pattern -- just these pieces and a rectangular waistband -- the curves and assymetry of it mean that cutting may take a little while. (Since construction goes quickly, it's a fair trade-off.)
I made several versions of this skirt in different fabrics to give you an idea of what you might expect from different textile choices.
The first version I made was in a very inexpensive sparkly knit from my stash. (Seriously, I think I paid less than a dollar a yard for it -- it's a bargain bin find.) Because the fabric is so flimsy, it wouldn't be a great choice for repeated wearings in your wardrobe, but it's perfect for a modern take on a witch or fortune-teller costume.
For my second version, I used a spandex knit that would normally be used for swim or activewear. This one has great body and drape, though you might be surprised at how quickly the weight adds up with this fabric.
When I first selected a plisse knit for version number three, part of me was trepidatious. I wasn't sure how it would come out, but I really, really love this version! The springiness of the fabric gives it a really nice body. I love the plum color so much that I didn't want to use a different knit for the waistband, so I cut a narrower version of the waistband piece out of the plisse and inserted elastic to make up for the lack of recovery in the knit. This one can easily do double duty as a costume element or a wardrobe piece.
Next I wanted to play with contrast a little bit, so I used a gray and black striped knit paired with a solid black for the draped pieces. The striped fabric is a polyester knit I had in my stash, but it's not very stretchy -- it stays crisp compared to the poly lycra jersey I used for the ruffles. I wore this one while tootling around town yesterday and got a compliment on it from a stranger on the train, so I call that a win! (Has it become abundantly obvious that this is a year-round style in my book?)
Spurred by the success of the first contrast experiment, I forged ahead with a higher-contrast chevron knit combined again with black. My chevron is an ITY, so it's very, very fluid. The black is the same poly lycra I used in the previous skirt. This has great swing and movement.
My last version is out of a simple poly/lycra blend knit with tiny stars printed on it. I love how the solid black of the non-printed side peeks out here and there in the cascading drape of the ruffle inserts. I have a feeling this one will be a repeat performer in my fall wardrobe, because it's beyond comfy and will pair perfectly with T-shirts and sneakers for weekend wear.
So, after six, I had to restrain myself. But there are so many other combinations I would love to try! Color mixes, different prints, using sheers for the ruffles, reversing the curve of the lower edge -- there are so many ways to make this skirt uniquely your own. That's some good voodoo.
Get your free pattern here, and have fun creating!
September 3, 2013
We have a new free pattern download from Create Kids Couture who have brought us Aiden's Shorts, Millie's Schoolhouse Skirt, and Hannah's Pillowcase Romper. This month we have Barbara's Bloomers and Bonnets set. The bloomers come in a short and long version with added ruffles. This is a great addition to any little girls wardrobe especailly one that is growing fast. Slip on some bloomers under a favorite dress turns is from too short into a tunic. I love putting bloomers on my baby in the warmer weather. She is not quite a walker so crawls everywhere but I want to avoid the whole tshirt/diaper combo and opt for more of a complete outfit with pretty bloomers. I love the longer, capri version for both my girls. The added knee coverage is great for my 4 yr old who comes home with a new bruise or scrap each day and my 11 mo old who is on her knees and on the go all day.
My modifications turned the bloomers into knickers for a paired down style that my 4 yr old prefers. While she is all for a good tutu, she is more likely to opt for knit pants over ruffle bloomers any day. I decided on the same style for my infant but added a small ruffle just to say "I'm a girl" while we are out and about. To create my modifications you will first need some jersey knit fabric in the same yardage as recommended in the pattern. I suggest cutting a size down because you want knit garments a bit fitted because it looks better and fits better. Since my oldest is in a size 5T, I went with a 4T for her. I took 2'' off the width of the pattern piece for both the 4T and 12-18 mo. size I cut out for my baby and took it off the fold side. I also added 2'' in length to the capri pattern because I found it didn't quite go over my 4 yr old's knees, I did the same with the 12-18 size just to be sure I could get more than a few weeks wear out of them. Then, I created a cuff that is 10'' wide by 4'' tall (this is roughly the width of my adjusted pattern piece width which means it is approx half the cut pattern). I cut the pants pattern pieces according to the instructions and cut 2 cuffs with the stretch across the width. For the small ruffle on my infant pants I cut some jersey 1'' by double the width of each pant leg (4 times the width of one pattern piece) and gathered it.
I gathered the bottom of each pant leg before folding the cuff in half and stitching it onto the bottom of each leg (for the ruffle stitch it in between the cuff and leg). Then complete the bloomer assembly instructions.
These bloomer/knickers fit perfectly and both girls loved them. My 4 yr old, who is not always a fan of most clothes I make for her, did not want to take them off and my infant went about her day as usual without any hinderance. They both looked cute as a button so I am just as pleased. I love the creativity Create Kids Couture brings to their patterns and what it inspires in me.
August 23, 2013
The past year or so I have really embraced chunky yarns. The most endearing characteristic is that they knit up so quickly compared to worsted weight yarn. I also love how lofty and chunky all my finished objects are and I really love to give soft, luxurious items as gifts. Hats knit up in a chaunky yarn are a dream to wear and make you feel so good when the air is cold outside. Who wouldn't want a nice plush, wooly scarf for the holidays. And sweaters, oh, don't get me started on sweaters. I have never knit up a sweater so fast or been so anxious to pull it on, curl up with a book, needles and some hot chocolate. You certainly can't have a chunky knit without some cableing somewhere and for that you need Clover's Jumbo Cable Stitch Holders.
These holders are so great. I used to use some DPN for cableing and figure-Meh, good enough. Hmm, so wrong. First DPNs get in the way, can be cumbersome and can lead to stitch slipping due to their shape. The cable stitch holders are shaped to just hang out of the way without taking up all the real estate. My favorite part though is the short side/long side. I use the short side to inititally slip the stitches off the needles and the long side to then knit the stitches off again. The two different colors allow me to grab the size I need at a glance. The bonus is you don't need to use the same size holder as needles. In my swatch I used size 17 needles but the holder was approx a size 13-15 and it turned out great. The jumbo stitch holders are nice and smooth to help most yarns just slide on and off then knit easily. I also really like that they can tuck away behind your ear, in a pony tail or a neckline when not in use with just a slip of the hand. I find anything left in my lap eventually gets forgotten and falls to the ground when I am distracted by my children or other responsibilities.
Overall, for such a small tool I am surprisingly excited over them. I expected just another review but walked away with renewed excitement over how much more fun and easy cabling is (I love the look but I usually hate them because they can be a hassle). I am now actively looking for cable patterns- who would have ever thought!
July 15, 2013
Is there anything truer to my heart than projects that do double duty? Oh, how the new Hot Patterns Summer Safari Fold-up Beach Bag/Mat/Towel free download addresses this love! It's a tote; it's a beach/pool mat; it's the perfect summer accessory you didn't know you needed. Seriously, you'll want one now.
Both folded into its totable state and spread out flat, this thing is huge! There is plenty of room to sprawl out -- room for two if you're into cuddling.
That size means you might want to be a little extra patient during the cutting and stitching -- wrangling large items can be a bear -- but it's so worth it. It's more than 4 feet wide and almost 6 feet long, which means no more having to carefully situate yourself so your arms and legs don't drift off your mat!