This week I was thinking about all the resources we have at our fingertips thanks to the internet. What would we do these days if we couldn’t go online? Before the days of YouTube, we home sewers had a whole new world open up to us with the introduction of VHS tapes and DVD’s for the home market. With these innovations of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, skills like quilting were no longer just for those who could find a shop nearby or the occasional guild to join. I thought, since you probably have some time on your hands, it might be interesting for you to visit some of the people who made quilting the popular pastime it is today. These ladies are generally no longer in the new mainstream, but they still have so much to share today. Some of these videos are a bit grainy, but they are well worth your time and attention, especially if you have never seen some of these ladies. Names like Kaye Woods, Eleanor Burns, Fons & Porter, Nancy Zieman and Sue Hausman were all synonymous with innovations in quilting. Some of them, such as Fons & Porter still have a more current online presence thanks to their children. I’m sure you have a favorite quilter you enjoy learning from today, but I hope you will find some new inspiration from some pioneer voices of the past. Stay well and Happy Sewing!
There is no doubt about it….this has been a stressful week for everyone! Today I decided, with all my searching for food and supplies and all my social distancing, I just needed to turn off the news and do something creative. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I find it really helps me to do something for others. During the holidays, my husband and I give gift cards to local charities, such as Ronald McDonald House and local shelters, to give to those who are having some really tough times in their lives. I decided to design a little draw string bag for these gift cards and thought I would share it with you in case you have some little hands around the house that are not going to school. This is a great project for everyone from novice sewer to expert. See if you might like to make some at your house.
First of all, you will need to choose a small piece of cotton fabric: a fabric that will fray. Decide how big you want the finished bag to be and then add seam allowances and hems. The only other material type item you will need is ribbon. I used two 20” cuts of black 1/8” ribbon. Follow the pictures to see how I did this.
I hope you too have the chance to ease some stress this week with your talents. Stay well and happy sewing!
Most sewing machines today have a feature built in that allows you to stop with the needle in the “down” position.
Pushing this button tells the machine to make sure the needle is in the fabric each time the machine stops. Most of us use this feature mainly to keep the fabric in one place when we lift the presser foot to change direction while sewing, such as for a pivot. But the needle down position can do so much more than just hold the fabric while we pivot. For example, when sewing satin or zig-zag stitches going to the left at a 90 degree angle, the needle down, when stopped on the right of the foot as you look at it, provides a clean corner that has a very professional look.
Conversely, if the 90 degree angle goes to the right, the needle should stop in the down position on the left of the foot as you look at it. When stitching decorative stitches in a circle, it depends on the placement of your stitches around that circle. If your stitches are running inside the circle, the needle should always stop down on the right of the foot. If your stitches are running outside the circle, the needle stops to the left of the foot.
These are simple yet important rules to follow, especially if you are stitching intricate appliques or designs using decorative or satin stitches. The only time you do not want to use the “needle down” feature: when you are sewing very thick fabrics. Very thick fabrics can sometimes be difficult for the needle to penetrate easily and can cause a slight deflection of the needle. If the “needle up” feature is engaged, this small deflection may result in a skipped stitch or a broken needle. If the “needle down” feature is engaged, the machine will continue to try to penetrate the fabric, even though a needle deflection has occurred. This makes quite a loud noise and is not particularly good for your machine. Just remember, with thick fabrics, use the appropriately sized needle and make sure the needle always stops in the “up” position. Happy sewing!
Last week we covered feet for piecing and stitch-in-the-ditch. This week we’ll take a look at some options for applique and free motion. Please remember, the feet I am showing are the feet I personally own. There are many excellent options available that I simply may not have. In fact, you may have a favorite presser foot option not shown in this writing. That doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent option for the projects you create.
When it comes to applique, I like to have a choice of several different presser feet; each one I use for a different circumstance.
Most of the time, I choose to use a presser foot that has a wide opening so I have excellent visibility. If my applique is large and has a lot of straight lines, I may even choose to use one of my walking feet with the open toe foot option. This keeps the applique edge clearly in view all the time and the walking aspect helps if I am unable to secure the fabric with some type of adhesive such as “Steam a Seam II” or another type of fusible adhesive. When tackling smaller appliques or when the need for going around curves is in the project, my go to foot is Pfaff’s applique foot.
It’s small profile in the front makes going around curves really easy and the small groove on the back of the foot even allows for a small cord to be placed under satin stitching around the applique, giving it a beautiful raised effect.
When adding free motion quilting to a project, there are many options. The two basic categories are floating feet and spring action feet.
If you are working with free motion rulers, for example, the ruler foot is a floating foot which guides along acrylic rulers to create the designs you want.
Other floating foot options include the echo quilting foot. This foot allows you to keep equidistant lines of sewing around the object you want to echo quilt. Floating feet are common as included accessories when you buy a sewing machine. It’s also sometimes called a darning foot. All floating feet do exactly what their name suggests: they float across the fabric. You may need to lower your presser foot pressure to use this accessory. Floating feet need to float freely. You also need to remember to drop your machine’s feed teeth!
Spring action feet are my favorite. I like the amount of stability they give to the fabric while the needle goes in and out of the quilt sandwich. If you pair a spring action foot with a straight stitch needle plate, now you’re talking! Whether or not you use an open or closed toe foot is really your preference. I have used and own both and I like them each depending upon my needs. The open toe does give a bit more visibility as you stitch, but the closed toe gives a bit more stability, in my opinion. When using any of these feet, remember to tell your machine what type of foot you are using (usually in the Settings Menu) and lower your feed teeth!
If you are just beginning to make your choices in presser feet for quilting, I hope these two weeks have been of some help. I’m including the links to the accessory areas of Brother, Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff again this week in case you need them. If you have any questions as to what would work the best on your machine, give Bonny a call at 540-288-2022! Happy Sewing!
March 1st is the first day of National Quilting Month, so I thought I would spend a couple minutes these next two weeks talking about some different quilting feet that you may or may not have. I have three machines that I use all the time: a Brother Luminaire, a Pfaff Creative Icon and a Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond Royale. Between the included machine feet and my “just in case” buying habits, I have quite the collection of quilting feet.
Whether you have been a quilter for two weeks or for over twenty years, I think it’s always fun to see how other people use the presser feet available today. Now, let me be clear. I know to be an excellent quilter all you really need is fabric, scissors, needle and thread (my grandmother’s quilts, pieced or embroidered, never had one machine touch the process at any point, from start to finish), but I am a machine girl and appreciate the speed and accuracy that affords me. This week I’m looking at piecing feet and stitch-in-the-ditch feet.
Almost every sewing machine these days comes standard with some type of piecing foot.
These feet are meant to provide a guide for you to guide the material down the outside right of the foot for your ¼” seams. They work great, but I really prefer some type of metal guide, usually found on the optional feet.
The metal guide allows me to sew much faster with a great deal of accuracy without the work of guiding the fabric myself. My absolute favorite ¼” guide feet allow me to move the needle slightly to sew a ¼” seam or varying sizes of a scant ¼” seam.
Next are the stitch-in-the-ditch presser feet. These allow you to sew in the well of the seam with accuracy, usually while doing simple quilting or attaching the binding to the edges of the quilt.
It may surprise you to know that I don’t usually use any of these feet for stitch-in-the-ditch, but prefer to use an edge joining foot or an open toe foot.
The edge joining foot has a metal guide to run down the ditch but it has a wide needle area so I can vary the needle position to the exact place I want it. The open toe foot allows me to stitch in the ditch of the binding beautifully with full visibility.
Meet me back here next week when we conclude with applique and free motion options. Happy sewing!
Remember that weighted blanket I made for my dentist’s office back in January (Jan. 12th blog)? My nephew’s 5 year old son broke his leg and is now in a full-leg cast for the next 4-6 weeks. To say he’s not happy about this roadblock to his daily fun outside would be an understatement, so I thought I would help him to feel a bit calmer while inside by making him a weighted neck scarf. I found the pattern in one of the books I got from Bonny’s so I thought I’d give it a try.
This differs from the weighted blanket since I am not covering the bead insert “duvet style”. Not just the outside cover of the scarf will be washable: the whole scarf will be washable, including the beads.
As you can see, this project isn’t very large, so I was able to use some material I used for another project for him last year (did I tell you I love using scraps?). I followed the book’s directions and cut the fabric into the two pieces needed and then decided to add a muslin underlining to the project to keep the weighted beads from wearing through the fabric too easily.
This is where I deviated from the pattern for a bit. The difference between a lining and an underlining is how it is attached to the outer fabric. A lining generally hangs freely under the outer fabric. If it is attached at all, it’s only in one or two places. An underlining, on the other hand, is sewn to the outer fabric all the way around the edges and the two pieces of fabric are now always treated as if they were one piece. The seams for the scarf were directed to be sewn at ½”, so I attached the muslin underlining to the outer fabric using a ¼” seam. This allowed me to use my ¼” piecing foot for the job.
Don’t forget to use the markings on the foot to enable you to maintain a ¼” uniform seam allowance, even when turning corners.
Now that both scarf pieces had an underlining attached, I was ready for my final deviation from the pattern.
I felt I needed to join the underlining and fabric a little more securely together because I didn’t want the movement of the weighted beads to rub against the muslin and cause bunching, so I went to my quilting stitches on the machine and chose a serpentine stitch to hold the layers of fabric together.
I used the 2” guideline on my stitch plate to keep my lines of serpentine stitches straight and sewed two rows; one row down each side of the scarf.
You can’t even tell the stitching is there once the scarf is turned right side out. Now there is a stabilizing stitch every two inches to keep that underlining in place.
Once this step was finished, I was able to go back to the directions to finish up the scarf.
All that’s left now is to go to the store to get the weighted beads and sew up this scarf! Turns out his sister would like one too!
About 20+ years ago my parents added a sun room to the back of their house. They purchased a cute table and some ice cream parlor style chairs along with some other furniture and enjoyed their new space for years. Once both of my parents passed away, the chairs came to me. My husband and I have also enjoyed those same chairs, but by now, the thin material on them was discoloring and literally hanging on by a thread in some places. I decided to look in my fabric stash to see if I had a piece of material that would be the same basic weight (so the seat would fit back into the chair rim) and complimentary to the chair style. This project, once I gathered the tools and found the fabric I wanted, took about 2 hours. Not bad for a “free” makeover!
The chair’s “before” picture. Cute but the fabric, a very thin cotton, was worn and discolored.
At this point you may want to take a picture so you know how everything is supposed to look after your work is finished.
I marked the seat’s front and the back so I would be sure I was putting the seat back on correctly when done.
The fabric on this chair had been glued before it was stapled on, so I carefully removed the fabric, making sure I did not tear the old fabric.
The old foam was glued to the wooden seat and I decided not to remove it. I was careful to measure one of the staples I removed so I could match the size with the new staples I would be using.
Since I did not choose to replace the foam, I added some polyester batting to the seat. I used a thicker batting that would be way too stiff to use for a quilt. I centered the batting over the seat and found I didn’t need to attach it: the fabric would hold it in place.
When using the old fabric as a pattern for the new, I made sure to match the grain so my stripes would line up on the finished chair.
Since I had added some thicker batting to the seat, I added a ½” to the diameter of the circle of fabric.
Before starting to attach the new fabric to the seat, I marked the front and back by sticking a pin into the foam.
Now that I was sure my stripes would line up front to back, I stapled the fabric to the seat. I started by attaching the front, back and two sides first. I then continued to work my way around the circle by stapling across the seat, turning the seat 90 – 180 degrees each time so the fabric on the front did not get skewed.
Because I was working with a circle of fabric, tucks were inevitable so I made the tucks very small.
I’m happy with the finished product and will tackle the second chair tomorrow!
My sister-in-law and her sister have large enough homes to host the family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time we get together as a family, we use paper napkins: doesn’t everyone? But for these two special holidays, we use cloth napkins. A few years ago I made napkins for both ladies, but since I did that the family has grown significantly. We now have boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and grandchildren that have grown the family from about 11 to around 26. Time to make more napkins! For this task I used my Serger (Overlock Machine) with a 3 thread set up using Wooly Nylon in the upper looper. If you have a serger and have never tried a rolled hem, you really need to give it a go! Here’s what I did….
My serger is older, but works beautifully. If you own a newer serger, some of the steps I needed to go through will not apply to you. Check your owner’s manual. My serger was set for a 4 thread overlock stitch from my last project. This set up uses 4 cones of thread on the machine (two needle threads and two looper threads) with an even tension setting for all 4 threads.
Since I haven’t used the machine for a rolled hem in a while, I got out the directions to make sure I was covering all my bases.
As long as I was significantly changing the machine’s configuration, I thought I might as well clean the machine, oil it and change the needle. (Please check your owner’s manual for maintenance directions.)
Once my cleaning was done, I changed the settings on my machine to match my owner’s manual’s suggestions, removing one needle. Notice how different the tension is from the even setting of a standard over lock stitch?
The Wooly Nylon thread has a lot of stretch to it and fills out once it leaves the machine.
I wanted an 18” square to be the finished size of my napkins, so I made 19” square cuts (which means I get 4 napkins from every one and an eighth yard cut of 44” fabric). Make sure you use a scrap piece of your fabric for a test for the look of your rolled hem and to make sure you are cutting off exactly the amount you want to cut.
You can chain sew the napkins, just as you would if you were piecing a quilt, but leave a long tail of thread in between each napkin so there will be a long thread tail on each corner of your napkin when they are cut apart.
When chaining the napkins, don’t forget to hold the thread from the last napkin with one finger while guiding the next napkin with the other. By holding the thread from the last napkin with one hand while holding the thread from the current napkin with the other, none of the threads will roll back on themselves, creating an unsightly bump in your hem. Also, remember not to push your fabric through the machine. It feeds slower than a regular stitch because of the density of the stitch. Forcing the fabric will result in an uneven rolled hem with thick and thinner spots. Once the napkins are finished, cut them apart
This will leave a dark spot when first applied, but will probably disappear when dry, but please, DO A TEST FIRST! Leave the napkins to dry thoroughly, for at least 30 minutes, and then cut the thread tails off close to the corner.
There you have it: two 18” square napkins ready to use. Just 28 more to sew! They can be folded, used as a decoration, used with a napkin ring, or in a bread basket as a covering for the rolls. Use your imagination! Since they are cotton, they can be washed after each use.
During the “Sewing Machine Basics” class, we go over all of the accessory feet that come with your new machine: what they are and their use. When discussing the zipper foot, I usually have at least one customer who says “I’ll never use that foot. I don’t do zippers!” Zippers seem to be quite intimidating for a lot of sewers so I thought I would give some tips on how to insert an easy type of zipper that you may encounter as a garment sewer or as a person who needs to replace a broken jacket zipper. If you can just remember that this is a process where you should take your time, you’ll be fine. Let’s begin…..
I changed my needle from the size 90 stretch needle I had been using for the garment’s construction to a size 90 universal needle to make piercing the zipper tape easier. The pattern asked me to line up the zipper teeth along the seam line and stitch the zipper tape to the front of the garment. What does that mean?
The directions are asking that the zipper be sewn to the front of the garment, a little from the edge, so I measured 5/8” away from the edge and placed the seam guide along the teeth.
I was also asked to fold the top of the zipper tape inward so it “disappeared” into the seam allowance.
I first tried to use the standard zipper foot for this task, but it was too large for me to comfortably sew along the zipper teeth and keep track of the 5/8” guide line on the needle plate…
so I changed to the Narrow Zipper Foot, which fit perfectly!
The zipper teeth run along the seam line while the fabric is guided along the 5/8” marking on the needle plate.
Remember: when inserting a zipper, always sew from bottom to top along both sides of the zipper. This is to ensure accuracy of the zipper when meeting at the top. The left side of the zipper was now installed.
As you get ready to insert the other side of the zipper, carefully line up the bottom edges so the zipper will easily zip when finished.
As the zipper is sewn from bottom to top again, you will need to move the zipper pull out of the way. You will be unable to sew next to it without creating a distortion in the zipper and your fabric. You will need to flip the zipper foot and run your fabric along the 5/8” needle plate marking on the left of the needle.
Taking my time with this step ensures the zipper meets perfectly at the top and at the bottom.
All that’s left is to clip the zipper into its final position and top stitch it.
Remember, you will need to move the zipper tab out of the way again as you sew to avoid distorting the zipper and the material.
As you may remember from my posts last year, I made zippered bags for everyone in the family this year for Christmas. Two of the gentlemen in the family wanted a bag, but not the ones I made. They are both avid cyclists and wanted a bag to attach to their bike big enough to hold an extra pair of sunglasses in a case. Their preferred material: vinyl. They also each wanted the bag to attach to the cross bar of their bike and they didn’t want the bag to swing when the bike was in motion. With that information, I went home to see what I could do for them. I found a piece of marine vinyl big enough to make both bags.
I used the roller to press in the hem since you cannot use pins on vinyl. Once the hem was pressed it was time to insert one side of the zipper. The zipper is intentionally much longer than what was needed to make working with the bag’s construction much easier.
I marked the back of the bag for the 1” drop I wanted for the zipper, so the zipper would not be directly on the very top of the bag. This decreases the stress on the zipper over the life of the bag. After marking the line, I used a 1” wide ruler laid along the line and then I folded the vinyl over it to create a crease.
Next item in the process was the addition of the Velcro straps to hold the bag to the bike. I used 2 straps on the top of the bag and one on the bottom, off set to the right. This was to hold onto the bike’s diagonal bar to keep the bag from swinging on the cross bar while the bike was in motion. I overlapped the straps ½” and used the four way stitches on my machine to secure them to one another. I used my plastic stiletto to mark the strap placement on the front of the bags.