Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year my sewing & nonsewing friends

I've been a sewing fool, it seems; so much so, that I haven't taken time to share it with you!

Christmas meant making Christmas stockings, a lot of them, and other stuff. Here's a sampling of what's been whirring in my machine and by hand. So easy, all of it, and fun to look at and give as gifts.

After Christmas, I took the Christmas mug mats/coasters up and the table looked empty. I remembered my stash of yellow and blue fabrics, but them into 1-1/2" strips, and created log cabin mug mats for myself. The binding is some left over blue bias tape and the back is made from a scrap fabric. I still have some leftovers of the blue and yellow fabric. Who knows where it will end up next. These are a little over 4" in circumference. 

Ooops, that's not sewing! A couple of plates of cookies found their way into my camera. How'd that happen? I make a butter cookie with my mother's icing - confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, food coloring, and just enough water to make it spreadable. It hardens, but does not get crunchy like royal icing. They're so good! My kids said this year I used weird colors. They're right! 

I saw a Christmas tree skirt with dachshund silhouettes on it. That sent me on a hunt for a German shepherd dog silhouette. I found a coloring page that was just right. I traced that onto Wonder Under, changing a bit here and there, fused the Wonder Under to Christmas fabric, and cut them out. They, then, were fused to an oval of complementary Christmas fabric, satin stitched, and backed with a fun cheater quilt Christmas fabric. I made the bias binding out of a bit of this and that and voila, placemats. 

Joanna is a friend of my daughter's. She painted an amazing portrait of our last three dogs. It was my present to my husband this year. I figured she deserved a tip, so Christmas stocking it was!

She's an avid archer, so I printed a photo she had posted on Facebook onto fabric. Then I worked around it with some candy cane fabric strips. 

When I think of archery, for some reason, I think of fringe. I had happened to have some red suede fringe, so there you go - the finishing touch. 

Oh yeah, a few potholders too. The Redskins one was a gift. They still don't play so well, but she's a fan.  

As usual, it's backed with denim patchwork. Love my recycled denim! Plus, it does add a layer of protection along with the InsulBrite.

I had some Steelers scraps, so why not? Same thing. Denim backing. There's a fan out there somewhere that wants this.

My daughter asked if I could make a stocking for her boyfriend. She sent me a picture of his dog Photoshopped into a Christmas scene, and as with Joanna's stocking, I printed it on fabric and worked around it with a variety of strips that I've been collecting. The strips were all made of 2" squares and cut down to 1-1/2" wide. It was fun to arrange them. Here is it half done. You can see my blue marks where I was aiming to keep things on point. I don't always use marking, but I recommend it for beginners. I'm an old timer, but still wanted them for precision.

This photo is of the front of it before it was attached to the quilted backing. I'll have a photo of that some day! 

Overall, my year-end sewing has been fun. There's more, but I haven't taken pictures yet. Where I used to be a potholder crazy person, now I'm a Christmas stocking crazy person. So much color, so fun, great to give away or sell, and the make me smile.

My one resolution in regard to sewing is the same as last year - Sew a little bit every day and continue to destash the sewing room.

Happy pins and needles to  you. Sew on!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A little throwback

In the 80s, I did a lot of hand embroidery. I was at a friend's house the other night and saw this on her wall:

I so remember doing these stitches. I copied the oriole out of a book and drew the flowers and logs. She is from Maryland, so an oriole seemed right. The background is a little discolored, but the floss colors have held up beautifully.

This is one I made for my sister. Her partner's name started with M and my sister's name starts with W. Not sure where I came up with the color scheme!

I don't have a lot of pictures of my embroidery. I spent hours with my boxes of floss and just the right needle. For some reason, I just wanted to share these today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Recycling an ugly skirt part 1 (is it really this close to Christmas?)

First, let me remind you that there is a strip quilted Christmas stocking tutorial on ScrapStitching. You can find it here: Christmas stocking how-to. I hand drew the pattern, but you can trace the edges of one you already have. The question always comes up about whether it should be hung with the toe to the right or left. I don't know the official answer! If you do, holler.

Last year, I went to an ugly Christmas sweater party. I won! I had a sweater vest that looked like someone had thrown up a bunch of undigested Christmas.

What you can't see are the green tights and red shoes. Hah! I don't mess around. The skirt was made with strips of candy cane fabric, hemmed with snowflakes, and had some green/white/red piping at the bottom edge. (That's Susan sitting behind me; she had an ugly sweater on too.)

I knew I wasn't going to wear the skirt again, so came up with recycling idea number 1. I have part 2 planned, but you can't see that yet.

Fast forward to now. A friend purchased her first house and there's a housewarming on Sunday. I will so be there. I really didn't know what would be a good gift. Should I make something that matches her house? Then I remembered my skirt. How about a Christmas pillow? She wouldn't feel obligated to display it all year long and it would be unexpected and fun. So that's what I went with.

I used the stripes as is for one side:
Believe it or not, I used a hat box as a template for the circle. I like to look around and see what I have when I'm looking for circles, rectangles, and squares.

For the other side, I cut 2" strips of the striped fabric and placed it on a circle of muslin using a log cabin design (you can hardly tell it's a log cabin!):
It came out nice and random looking and that's sort of what I was aiming for.

Next came a trip to my Christmas trims box. I kept the red theme and grabbed some red lacy ruffle and added that to the edge.

I think it's kind of cute! And guess what? I don't have that ugly skirt anymore :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A jacket walks into a bar....

Okay, no jacket really walked into a bar, but it got your attention!

Last year, I bought a seriously ugly knit print. I have no idea why I bought it, but I did.

This year, I have an obsession with making cardigans to go with all my tees and tank tops for fall and then with blouses for the winter.

Boom! Ideas started brewing and then I got to thinking. I'll make a knit cardigan. I dread sewing with knits so tried to simplify the process as much as possible. I chose not to cut a facing, opting to go with hem tape (a lacy seam/hem tape) that matched the fabric. I stitched that on around the front opening and turned it under, then top stitched. Voila! Well, voila until I put it on. It fit right, I loved the pockets and the weight of the fabric, but that front was all wrong. It kept rolling out from wrong side to right, making it nigh on impossible to wear.

Dang, now what? Then the light bulb went off again. Yes, it did. 

I had ordered a tank top to wear (under cardigans, of course!) and really didn't like the way it fit. I'm not a fan of wearing what look like painted on clothes. I wore it once and decided I'd shelve it forever. 

Now I had two items that I was never going to wear. Not acceptable in my book. 

I cut the front off the tank top and then folded it down the center. I cut about 4" from the center on both sides, giving me about an 8" strip of shirt that included the neck opening, snaps, and a good amount of shirt. Then I pinned that to the inside of the cardigan with the wayward facing. I had to be extremely careful to not stretch to the left, right, up, or down; remember, I hate knits! I did this flat on a table with the cardigan front carefully placed over the pink tee. I used probably 3 times the number of pins I needed, but I really wanted it to not shift. 

And guess what? It worked. I actually have a two-fer that I love. You never know what your mistakes can be turned into. It wasn't a hard thing to do, just exacting. I don't mind exacting if I know things will come out okay. And here's the star of today's show:

It's not as frumpy on as it is on the dress form. You'll just have to trust me on that one. Totally machine washable and a toss it over your head kind of top. 

Now, someone stop me from buying a knit piece of fabric again!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sewing something for myself, Simplicity 8426, Jacket/Cardigan

It's getting a touch chilly on the east coast, so it's time to go through my jacket and cardigan patterns and see what I want to make. That's how this got started. It snowballed from there.

Using junk jeans is a hobby of mine. I'll turn them into place mats, potholders, doll clothes, blankets, and now into clothes for me.

I chose an older pattern that had no darts, Simplicity 8426. Then I gathered up my pile of blue jean legs.

This picture of the unfinished jacket back gives you an idea of how I put the jeans legs together higgledy piggledy. I made a piece big enough for each of the two front pieces of the pattern and then started stitching legs together to have a piece large enough to cut on the fold for the back. I used jeans legs that had been opened up at the inseam for the sleeves. (The right sleeve is not in this picture.) That's the only place I left on the original blue jean seam. 

Here's a shot of the front. Again, no rhyme or reason for the positioning of the fabric. I just kept adding pieces till it was big enough to cut what I  needed to cut. You can see the pockets on the front in this picture. 

I found some gray bias tape in my goody box and decided to use that rather than more denim for the front facing. The layers of denim get very thick, and this bias tape did the job just fine. Here's how the front looks from the inside. 

And the pockets! I got the handy dandy seam ripper and took pockets off the back of a couple pair of jeans. I was able to salvage two. The placement is as shown on the pattern. I did not line the pockets. 

Here's a side view and you can see how the sleeve has the original side seam in it. 

I need to add the second sleeve and hem the cardigan and the sleeves. I took great care not to stretch the fabrics too much so that there wouldn't be puckers. Denim is a bear to work with, but I think this is going to be a cardigan that gets worn a lot! I'll add more photos when it's done. It looks better on me than the dress form!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Sewing (with an update!)

I have a lot, I mean a lot of Halloween fabric. I've been collecting it for years from fabric stores, yard sales, trades and swaps, and pretty much anywhere I can snag it up. Did you know it's almost impossible to find scary fabric for Halloween now? All the pumpkins, witches, and skeletons are smiling! Not so much with my older fabrics, but anything acquired in the past 15-20 years, yup, they're smiling.

This year, I wanted to try a bunting. The way I've hung it is not mainstream, but the idea is simple. I made a simple triangle pattern, gathered my fabrics, and used pinking shears to cut the triangles for the bunting. I zig-zagged the triangles onto a piece of grosgrain ribbon, leaving tails of ribbon at the ends.

I did not leave space between the triangle flags, but if I did this again, I would absolutely leave a half inch or so for tacking it up, maybe even a little less than that. My ribbon is about 1-1/2 times the width of the mantle. I made it, I hung it, and I have learned a little something from it. You should ry it yourself. It couldn't be easier. I have made bunting with spaces before and they do hang better. This was kind of an experiment. 

Update: I hated the way it was hanging, so I tried something different. Much better!

My other project this year is a set of four placemats with a Jack o'Lantern, smiling of course, appliqued onto a skeleton fabric. I used store bought bias binding that I had on hand. The back is a complementary fall fabric which makes these reversible. If you are not interested in drawing a pumpkin, you can Google "Halloween coloring pages" or "Jack o'Lantern coloring pages" and use what you find as your pattern. I borrowed my design of the pumpkin and stem from a coloring page search. When I do this kind of applique, I do a straight stitch around the shape first to hold it in place. 

For the process, I appliqued the pumpkin and the stem onto the skeleton fabric. I then made a sandwich of the fall fabric, flannel, and the pumpkin decorated piece, and did some wide machine quilting on the diagonal to hold it all in place. I machine sewed one side of the bias binding in place (on the pumpkin side), pinned it, and hand sewed the back binding. You can use your machine; I prefer the hand stitching. (If you have it, use some kind of anti-fray liquid on the appliqued stitches.)

Last year, I was heavy into making trick or treat bags with Halloween patchwork. If you want to try one of those, simply make some patchwork fabric out of 4" or 5" squares of Halloween fabric, and make a simple lined tote bag. Here are a couple of last year's examples:

Have some ghoulish fun with your sewing for Halloween. Your kids will love placemats and tote bags that you made for them and they also make fun items to give away or sell at a craft show or online. Or do like I do and just make stuff for yourself.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Something different

Sometimes, I think I have too much time on my hands, but then I think again and decide I have just enough time. No time, no sew.

As some of you may know, I have diabetes. I have to check my blood sugar a lot. I have a box I've been using for about a year. It contains my 'works' - blood sugar meter, alcohol thingies, pokey thingie, and some extra needles for the pokey thingie. All very technical. I got tired of looking at the black box yesterday. And then I remembered some special fabric I have that's just over-the-top enough to work as a cover.

The lighting is a little off, but you can tell it's my blood spatter fabric. I had some left over from a  placemat project and you know I couldn't let it go to waste. It pained me to toss the smidgen I had after covering this box!

Box covering is pretty simple. There are tons of sites that give step by step instructions, so I won't really repeat it all here. Basically, I cut the fabric a bit larger than  needed to cover and fold into the inside. I applied Mod Podge to the box and spread out the fabric with my hands, smushing out air pockets as I went. I let the top dry before tackling the sides. When doing the sides, I pretty much worked with the fabric like I would wrapping paper, again using Mod Podge on the box to hold the fabric permanently. I put a little inside for the folded over fabric. The tool I use to hold everything in place while the Mod Podge dries is the lowly plastic clothespin. Wooden ones stick too tight and are hard to get off. I used clothespins all the way around and turned the whole mess over so that the clothespins were the feet of my little blood spatter table until it dried. 

It's not beautiful, but it's ironic and unique. And I would guess you could say it's me. Not all scrap stitching has to involve stitching! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The smallest of things put a kink in my sewing day!

This is driving me crazy.

I helped my daughter with a school project. We did some color blocking on a tee shirt. She did the design and the planning, and I did the sewing. We both did cutting. Along the way, I needed 1" strips, so grabbed my handy dandy 1" x 6" Omnigrid ruler.

You probably have one or something like it that you use often. I have a 2" ruler, a 4" ruler, a 6" ruler (all widths); a curved corner template; wedge rulers; diamond rulers; 4" square ruler; and others. Each is used from time to time, often enough that if one disappears, it's the one I need right now.

Okay, back to the school project. I've taken to cleaning up after a project or cut out immediately so I don't have to face the mess in the morning. If I leave it too long, it becomes invisible and just lives wherever I left it. I know I'm the only one who does that, right? I gathered up scraps of fabric, papers bias tape, and other remnants of goodies left on my table. 

The next morning, I went to grab my 1" x 6 " handy dandy Omnigrid ruler and it wasn't where it is supposed to live! Argh. I made do with what I had on hand - a sort of 1" wide ruler. It wasn't the same. The wooden substitute was a bit wider than an inch and I had to eyeball the correction. It was probably 1/16" inch too wide. 

Then the "woe is me" set in. My handy dandy 1" x 6" Omnigrid ruler was gone. I don't know if I threw it away with the fabric scraps from the school project or if it was hidden behind something, but it's nowhere I can find it; that's for sure. 

God forbid I cut a thick piece of cardboard an inch wide. That just wouldn't do. 

It's a small piece of my sewing arsenal, but man, it is missed. It's like my last Clover seam ripper took a walk. I can't sew without that little gem being handy, even if I don't use it. I have 3 spares!

As I continued to obsess about my 1" x 6 " handy dandy Omnigrid ruler's disappearance, I decided it was time to fix this dilemma. Guess what I ordered this morning? I'm going to chain it to my table. And I will never do a school project with my 30-year-old daughter ever again. I'm sure there's a way to turn this around and make it her fault. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Scrap Stitching Wordle - Take 3

The last time I did a Wordle for Scrap Stitching, it looked like this - click.

The second time I did one, it looked like this - click.

I thought it was time to do another one today and see if it changed:

Wordle: Take 2

(Click on the graphic to see it better.)

I think the predominant word is sewing, don't you?

Update 01/30/18 - Looks like the Wordle links don't work anymore, which is sadness! They were fun graphics. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

September is National Sewing Month

Hop on over to for a bunch of ideas and inspiration or visit some of our favorite sites in the links over there on the right, try one of our projects or search this blog for projects and tutorials, and scoot over to Pinterest and see what others are sewing. You might even consider teaching someone else how to sew. With that in mind, here's an update to an article I wrote many years ago for, when I was doing community work for them.

Learning to sew can be fun and rewarding, but start small and work your way up. I've never been sorry that I caught the "sewing bug". 

The first stop is your public library. The Dewey Decimal System for sewing-related items in the nonfiction section of your library is here:

    640 Home economics & family living
    646 Sewing, clothing, personal living 

I have found that the children's section of the library is a good place to look for sewing books for beginners. Do a couple of the truly easy projects (no one has to know!) and then move on to something more "complicated" like a garment.

Browse through the stacks of sewing books. Some are great and others are lame, but there's sure to be one or two that suit your needs. Singer has a great set of sewing books, and the Reader's Digest sewing book is good for beginners. I've found "how to sew" books on eBay and at yard sales, so you don't have to spend a lot of money. As well, most pattern companies (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, to name a few) have basic sewing instruction books, and there is a Sewing for Dummies and a Sewing for Idiots, both aimed at beginners. If you're interested in buying any of the books you see, you'll at least have a good preview by borrowing them from the library first!

Fabric stores often offer classes. Find a reputable fabric store in your area and see if they offer craft or sewing instruction. Even if they don't, they may know someone who does. Check the bulletin boards at the store. Another place to check is your yellow page directory. Sometimes you can find instructors there. Check with your local Extension Agency or 4-H, if they are available to you. Again, the phone book is of great help in this respect.

If there is a sewing machine dealer in your area, check with them. They may already offer classes for the general public. If they don't you can suggest it to them! Some public school systems and community colleges offer community education classes for adults.

Consider looking for an on- or off-line mentor. Other people who sew at church, sewing associations, quilt guilds, online communities, newsgroups, email groups - all good possibilities for mentors.

What has changed since then? There are so many sites on line with how-to information, including this one. Google is your friend and with a few keystrokes, you can find pretty much anything you want to know on the web. Nothing substitutes for having the human interaction, and that's something we can do for others.

Recently, I was working with my 30-year-old daughter on a graduate school art project which involved sewing. I followed her design lead, she did the cutting, color choices, etc., and I did the sewing. At one point, as she was cutting, she looked at me and said, "I have a whole new respect for what you do, mom!" It was a great moment!

Happy National Sewing Month everyone. Make it a good one.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Where there's a will, there's a sewing machine!

It's catch up day in my household. I had a few hours to kill, so off to the sewing room with me. I have a stack of potholders ready to sew. They're cut out, the backing is cut out, and the InsulBrite is cut out - All of them have been just waiting for me to do my thing.

I sell my potholders on Etsy and eBay. Guess what? I sold two that hadn't been finished yet! Eeep. That's one of those things that one should not do, but I did. Thankfully, it's a holiday weekend and I have an extra day before I have to mail these out.

I sewed the lattice on the two unfinished pieces and did the machine side of the binding. As I speak, I've finished 2-1/2 of the hand sewn backs. Whew.

Now I'm in a sewing mood. I have some amazing vintage fabrics and patterns that I have lined up for fall/winter clothing. I've cut out one eyelet top and have a striped brown fabric to make slacks. Another outfit consists of an asymmetrically closed top using two different fabrics. No special slacks for that blouse. As always, I have 100 more ideas than I have hours, but I'm going to give it a go.

Thankfully, I got the potholder pile caught up. I'm sure there will be a new pile in its place before you know it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Time to start sewing for fall - Let's start with the Zombie Apocalypse!

Yep, summer is slipping buy. I sew a little something every day, but lately, I've been obsessed with the Zombie Apocalypse. True devotees have their go bags all ready. So, being the good citizen I am, I figured it was time to make a Zombie Apocalypse tote bag. I found some amazing fabric at Spoonflower (they'll even print fabric of your own design!), and have been having fun with it ever since.

Here's part 1 of the Zombie Apocalypse tote bag. More to come!

That's the finished product. Unfortunately, the picture shows the shadows of the quilting lines and it's not the best. Don't worry, there's another one below. 

This is the fabric and I love it. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. 

 First things first. I found a brain coloring page on line and made some adjustments, then cut out some large brains for the tote bags and small ones for future placemats. 

I first made the bag front and back, using a 4" x 4" patchwork using recycled denim.  
Then it was time to sew. You can see the quilting lines a little better. I used my machine and did parallel lines approximately 1/2" apart. Then I stitched around the edge, close to the edge as possible.  

Then came the fun part - satin stitching around the brain. I did a wide stitch with essentially no stitch length. When it was completed, I applied a fray retardant solution to the appliqued edge.

A good denim tote needs a recycled denim pocket. The stitching was reinforced on the cotton faux denim lining. I stitched around it twice so that it was made to use and not baby. 

Time for handles. I cut 4" strips from another piece of denim then folded it and ironed it on a high heat to get a crease down the center. I folded raw edges to the crease and stitched them down on both sides. 

Then, I folded this in half and stitched down both sides for closure and reinforcement. The finished handle is about 1" wide. (I'll add a measurement of the length of the handle in my next post, but if you can't wait, measure the handles on a tote you like and cut your handles 1" or so longer.)
Brain on bag and handles. Now to put it together. 

That's the beginning. I'll be posting the photos and how-to for making the bag, adding the lining and handles, and finishing it all up!

You know you need a Zombie Apocalypse go bag - make one! 

More to come.