I am always fascinated with how others approach choosing fabrics and sewing projects. It’s something so basic to the art of sewing but so varied in its execution. Some people look for inspiration in colors or textures, while others find it in patterns or skills needed to complete a task. I am a visual/kinesthetic learner, so I want to see different colors and feel the texture of the fabrics. I like tweeds, batiks and prints that have movement but my fabric collection has a lot of solid fabrics in it. That’s because I also choose fabrics keeping in mind the embroidery designs I may want to use for the fabric’s embellishment. For me, the fabric comes first when choosing a new project. There have been many times when I have chosen a pattern for a garment, table runner or quilt because I liked the finished product pictured on the pattern only to find I am unable to replicate the fabric used. That’s extremely frustrating for me, so choosing fabric first and then finding an appropriate pattern for that fabric seems to be my best option. I must admit there are also times when I want to tackle something really challenging in the skills needed to complete a project. For me, there is a different sense of accomplishment when I finish a complex project versus a simple one. I know that “done is better than perfect” (as quilter Jenny Doan likes to say) but sometimes I really want to shoot for perfection!
I saw this video today and thought you might like to take a look, if you haven’t already seen it. Donna Jordan owns a quilt shop and produces a lot of tutorials posted on YouTube that let you see the whole process of making a quilting project from start to finish, in a video lasting about 20 minutes. Oh, if it were only true one could cut, piece, assemble, quilt and bind a project in only 20 minutes! Anyway, in the beginning of this video she talks about how people make their choices when approaching a new quilting project: very interesting perspective and outcome. Take a look and see what you think. Happy Sewing!
I once had a principal who opened every faculty meeting with something she called Nuts and Bolts. This was the title of a set of random, yet important, pieces of information that helped our whole school operate more efficiently. Just like actual nuts and bolts are vital to the stability and longevity of a structure, so these bits of information held our school and faculty together. Every time I sew, I use my own set of Nuts and Bolts, which I have collected over the years. I hope the following are helpful to you as you continue your sewing journey. These are not listed in the order of their importance or in a type of Top Ten format. They are simply tips I hope will help you as much as they have helped me.
**Presser feet are used to hold the fabric against the feed teeth as the fabric goes through the machine. It is really important that your presser foot is using the correct amount of pressure to successfully send your fabric over the feed teeth evenly. Unless you sew the exact same fabric in the exact same way for all of your projects, knowing how to change your presser foot pressure is a must for the most professional look to your projects. If you don’t know how to change your presser foot pressure, check your owner’s manual. Depending upon your machine, it will be a knob or dial on the top or side of your machine near your needle bar that you turn or it will be an icon found in your Settings Menu.
**Needles are sized according to a standard set of numbers. Whether you use the European or American numbering system, really doesn’t make that much difference (for instance, a European size 75 needle is an American size 11). What is important to remember is that the heavier the needle, the larger the number. I own needles ranging in size from European size 60 to 120. (The size 60 needles are used for very thin materials such as chiffon. The size 120 is used for some of the upholstery fabrics I sew). Also important to remember: if you have a needle threader on your machine, it will work with needles down to a size 75/11. Trying to use the needle threader on needle sizes smaller than that may damage your needle threader since it is too large to go through the eye of a smaller needle. This can lead to a costly repair!
These size 120 needles are the largest needles I own. I use them for heavy fabrics such as upholstery fabric. You can probably easily see the size of the eye of the needle. These really pierce the fabric!
**Universal needles are general needles. They are kind of the jack-of-all-trades of needles. They are fine for general sewing on common materials, but if you are using something other than quilter’s cotton, you may need a specialty needle. For instance, if you are sewing on a stretch fabric, use a ball point/jersey/stretch needle (all three names are common). This needle type has a rounder tip and will push the fabric’s threads aside rather than a sharper needle, which will pierce the threads of the fabric and give you undesirable results on stretch fabrics, such as snags, runs, puckers, etc. depending upon your material. If you are sewing on leather or vinyl, choose a leather needle which acts more like a knife to cut the material rather than simply pierce it. When using embroidery or universal needles, I usually opt for titanium or chrome coated needles since they are better at shedding heat from the friction of going up and down through the fabric. They tend to last much longer than a non-coated needle.
**My last tip today concerns thread. Thread size is also expressed in numbers, just as needle sizes are, but thread numbers are the opposite of needle numbers. In thread numbers, the smaller the number, the thicker the thread and the higher the number, the thinner the thread. On a home sewing machine, the thickest thread that can be used is a size 12. This is most commonly used for top stitching, since it is very thick and is very pronounced on the fabric. The thinnest thread I have used is size 100. This is a very thin thread and works very well on thinner fabrics such as chiffon and organza. All-purpose thread is generally size 50, embroidery thread is usually size 40 unless your design is digitized for the thicker size 30 thread and quilters tend to like size 30 or 40 thread for their quilting, depending upon how much attention they want paid to the quilting itself. Keep in mind that pairing the correct needle with the correct thread weight is key. This may take some experimentation on your fabric, but test sewing is never a waste of time!
After sewing almost exclusively for charity, family and friends for the last year, I find myself in the unfamiliar position of having time to sew for myself! I will be going back to work outside the home in October and I don’t think my comfy home bound wardrobe will do 🙂 I talked about my sewing room closet a couple weeks ago and thought, since I was moving everything from in front of it today, you would like to see what’s going on in there! The closet holds my materials that have been in my sewing queue the longest. This is the storage place for the fall and winter fabrics for garments and home décor, storing a lot of material for coats and jackets as well as the majority of my woolens and fleece. Today I was looking for materials for an outfit I would like to color block with navy, greys and blues as the focus of the hunt. A tool I have used for years to make sure the fabrics I put together actually do coordinate is an Ott light. If you don’t know what and Ott light is, it is a light that gives you a true light on your fabric without coloring that fabric with the different colors that other light bulbs can emit. For example, did you know that whites, blacks and navy blues tend to have varying degrees of purple in them? The Ott light shows this clearly, making choosing a matching or coordinating fabric so much easier than using a regular light bulb. The fabric stores generally have fluorescent lighting which makes choosing coordinating fabrics more difficult, so having the lights at home ensures that the pants I make will coordinate with the top I make. I hope you have time to start a special project this week. Happy Sewing!
By the way, at the end of the pictures today, you will find a couple pictures of the pink baby bunting I put the zipper in last week, just in case you were interested in seeing the finished product. Happy Sewing!
As promised, here are the pictures of the finished baby bunting from last week’s blog.
Today we learned that my niece and her husband are coming back to the U.S. from their tour in Germany. They will be coming back in the next two weeks and are bringing their new 6 week old baby to see the family for the first time! Since they will need to wait until October/November for the military to move their things, I got busy today making more changing pad covers and a new fall bunting for the baby. Many of our customers are intimidated when it comes to inserting zippers, so I thought I would share the zipper insertion for the bunting to see if these tips might help you the next time you have to insert a zipper into a new project or replace a zipper in an older item.
As I said earlier, there are many different ways to insert a zipper. This just works best for me. I think the most important tips are to use clips instead of pins, always sew from the bottom up on each side of the zipper, turn the wheel by hand when going across the bottom of the zipper and lower the presser foot pressure by one to three numbers from normal. These tips should have you inserting zippers like a pro in no time! Happy Sewing!
If you’re like me, you have been getting quite a few emails from Husqvarna Viking talking about a feature called Stitch Positioning, found on the newest machines. It is great to be able to place decorative stitches exactly where you want them on your project with accuracy and consistency, which is what this feature does. Did you know that if you own certain older models of machines, both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff, you may already have a version of this feature? In past machine models, being able to place a decorative stitch where you want it was accomplished by using the Alternative button or icon (presented as Alt or a picture representation). On the newer machines, this feature may be seen as a new type of icon on the display screen, but the effect is much the same. Essentially, the machine decides which decorative stitches can be positioned to the left or right of center needle position based upon the width of the stitch. For example, if the decorative stitch is wider than the stitch plate allows, the Stitch Positioning/Alternative feature will not be available. If the decorative stitch is able to be reduced in width, the machine will allow you to have more flexibility in the stitch’s placement on the stitch plate by moving the stitch’s starting point to the left of center needle position or to the right. My Husqvarna Viking machine has a plate opening width of 7mm and my Pfaff has an opening of 9mm. If I would like to position a decorative stitch, it must be a smaller width than 7mm on my Husqvarna Viking or 9mm on my Pfaff. Take a look on your machine or in your owner’s manual to see if you have this terrific feature. If you do, see if you can use it on your next project!
Remember, this feature allows you to move your stitch on the fabric without moving your presser foot. That’s a really big deal! You will always get a much cleaner stitch if your presser foot is moving along completely on your fabric. This allows the fabric to move through the feed teeth in a straight line with the least amount of distortion possible. Whenever your presser foot runs off the fabric, you can be sure there will be trouble ahead! Happy Sewing!
My nephew’s seven year old son is starting second grade tomorrow and has let me know (today) he would like me to make him something to keep in his backpack where he can keep some extra masks so he doesn’t have to wear the same mask all day. Makes sense: timing a bit late! Anyway, this evening I will be working on his mask carrier and I will get it to him after school tomorrow.
Whenever I make clothing, I always use a pattern. I just don’t have the knack for creating garments with the correct proportions unless I do. When creating home décor and accessory projects, I often go without a pattern. If you have never tried something without a pattern, let me give you a guide to help you have a much greater chance of success.
First thing to do is to decide how I would like the finished product to look. In this case, I will be creating a quilted, lined bag that will open in the middle (think facial tissue box style), with no zipper. This will make the masks easy to get into and out of the bag. I will be using bias tape on either edge of the opening so there will be a clean finish. I want the bag to measure slightly larger than the masks so getting the masks in and out will be very easy for a seven year old to manage. After deciding this bag needs to be made from super hero fabric, I am ready to start from the finished product and go backwards to get the measurements I need to start. I measured a paper mask and it measured 7” x 4”, minus the ear straps. I will make the 4” measurement twice that since I want to wrap the two halves of the bag to meet in the middle. Since I want the masks to go in and out easily, I will add ½” to each of those measurements. This ½” extra also allows me to box the corners to, again, make getting the masks in and out easier. Next to consider are the seam allowances. I will use ¼” seam allowances everywhere, so each cut piece gets another ¼” larger. I’m now at a cut size of 7 ¾” x 8 ¾”. Last thing to keep in mind is that this will be a lined, quilted bag. Quilting, depending on the density of the quilting, usually takes up fabric, so I will add another 1” to each measurement to account for this fabric shrinkage. I’m now at 8 ¾” x 9 ¾” for my initial cut pieces. I always err on the side of too big, so I will make my cuts at this guesstimate size and cut down the finished quilted material to 7 ¾” x 8 ¾” when I am ready to construct the bag. The sewing sequence will, again, be worked out from the finished product back to the beginning. I will cut then quilt the fabric, trim the fabric to my 7 ¾” x 8 ¾”, sew the bias strips to each side of the opening, sew the ends closed and box the corners. If I have measured correctly and sewed consistently, I will have a quilted bag for our second grader’s big year! Happy Sewing!
I have mentioned, many times, the fun of exploring the different features of your machine. You paid for the features your machine has, so it’s my opinion, they should be used whenever possible. If you purchased an embroidery machine that is top of the line or close to it, you probably have two features in the embroidery mode that sound as if they are very much alike: Shape Creator (Pfaff)/Design Shaping (Husqvarna Viking) and Applique Creator (Pfaff)/Design Applique (Husqvarna Viking). Actually, the two features are quite different. The applique feature on both machines allows you to create a traditional fabric applique for your project from a library of different shapes that can be varied in size and accomplished in the hoop. The Shape Creator/Design Shaping feature may not be as instantly familiar, but is a feature that holds almost unlimited uses for original embroidery projects. The ability of Shape Creator/Design Shaping, when embroidery machines were in their formative years, was only able to be accomplished by using powerful embroidery software. Lately, that creative ability has been added to the machine itself. Depending on your machine, you can choose one design and, through shape manipulation, create a whole new design in a matter of minutes. Take a look at the following pictures for a brief outline and, if you’d like to learn more, click on the Sewing Mastery links to see a more detailed tutorial (the tutorials I chose to link to here are for the Epic 2 by Husqvarna Viking and the Creative Icon by Pfaff). While on Sewing Mastery, see if your machine is listed and see if your machine has this fun feature.
If you would like to learn more about this fun and rich feature, go on over to Sewing Mastery and watch the excellent tutorial on either Shape Creator (page 5, video #112) or Design Shaping (page 4, video #97). Happy Sewing!
For years I used a sewing machine that was a straight stitch only machine. It would go backward and forward but did not have the ability to zig-zag. Once I got a zig-zag capable machine, the ability to sew on buttons by machine became a reality. Nowadays, the only buttons I sew on by hand are those with a shank on the back side, which is the only kind of buttons you cannot attach using your sewing machine. Sewing on buttons by machine may seem intimidating at first and if you have never tried it, you might be a bit leery, but once you get the hang of this feature and you have confidence, you won’t sew on another 2 or 4 hole button by hand again! This feature is not only good for creating a new project that uses buttons. It is terrific when you are facing that basket of clothes that need repairs (we all have that pile) and you find most of the to-be-repaired items need buttons sewn on. Almost all Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff machines have an icon of a button somewhere on your display screen or on the machine stitch selection area. If your machine has the ability to automatically drop the feed teeth when you push the icon, great. If not, make sure you lower the feed teeth before sewing on your button or the button won’t stay under the needle! By dropping the feed teeth, the button under your presser foot won’t move. Check out the following pictures and see if you would like to give this feature a try the next time you need to sew on a button.
If you think you would like more instruction in this button sew-on feature, take a look at Sewing Mastery, find your machine and watch the video. Happy Sewing!
In my early years of sewing, I was able to store everything I had in two small boxes: one for tools and one for material. Decades later, I am definitely past two boxes! My current sewing room is an 11’x12’ bedroom that is not a dual purpose space. I take up every inch of the room and closet, floor to ceiling! I also store fabric in other closets around the house, but we won’t talk about that now. Because space is at such a premium, I am always looking for ways to maximize that space and store fabric and other necessities in different ways. I currently use plastic bins that are 66 quart for storage that is out in the room. The room contains a large number of such bins and I can honestly say I know what is inside every one of them. My curiosity was peaked today after watching some online videos on fabric storage. None of what I saw online fit my collection of material, but I thought I would see if I could look at things a bit differently to change things up a bit. My questions: would rolling my fabric like spa towels take up more or less room than laying it flat in my bins? Could I get more fabric in each bin thus eliminating some of my bins to use elsewhere? Would the fabric be easier to locate and remove from each bin? Pulling fabric out of the bins that is far down the bin tends to turn into more of a game of Jenga, with all the fabric on the verge of falling all over the place! Let’s see what I found out.
I hope you enjoyed my little experiment. Since everything that came out of the bin went back in, I think I will leave the other bins alone. No real gain will come by redoing all the bins at this time. I may change a bin at a time to the rolled fabric as I access a new bin. Oh, FYI: my knit fabrics did not roll particularly well and the best rolls were done with woven fabrics of no more than 3 yards. What will you discover this week? Happy Sewing!
Choosing to invest in a hoop driven embroidery machine is an exciting decision. The embroideries are beautiful and can enhance any item you choose to embroider. All the different hoop sizes can get the creative juices flowing as you decide which designs to add to which projects. As embroiderers, we can sometimes get so excited about adding an embroidery design to a project that we don’t always take the time to set ourselves up for the most success. I own machines from several different manufacturers and each of them handle hooping fabric in a slightly different way. Some count on you purchasing an after-market help to keep the fabric firmly in the hoop, but Husqvarna Viking/Pfaff gives you a tool that works very well as included equipment with most machines: hoop clips. (If they did not come with your embroidery machine, you can order them from Bonny and Frank. They are not very expensive). These hoop clips fit into the slots on the larger hoops and help the hoop to squeeze the fabric/stabilizer and hold it firmly between the inner and outer hoop. Because of the stress that is put on the fabric by the needle entering and exiting it, the bigger the embroidery area, the more the need for using the clips. Not using them can cause your top thread to break more often due to the “flagging” of the fabric up and down as it is being stitched and can lead to the fabric becoming slack in the hoop if your stitch count is rather high. Not using the clips can also allow your fabric to move enough in the hoop that if you are trying to match registration stitches, say with the turntable hoop, it can significantly affect your ability to match those stitches. It only takes a moment to install the hoop clips on your larger hoops, so remember to take the time to use them on any hoop that has the slots for them. By the way, if your project requires a specialty hoop, such as the Mega Endless hoop, clips cannot be used since there are no clip slots on the hoop. In this case you will want to use the Hoop Grip that came with the hoop. This is a non-woven tacky type of material that fits into the hoop and will grip the fabric/stabilizer and keep it firmly in place as you stitch. It is especially helpful when stitching free standing lace on water soluble stabilizer!