Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sew Basic Session #3: Ruffles and Topstitch

Ok, lovelies!  Here we are already at the third and final session of It’s Sew Basic!  If you are just joining us, you can catch up on the Intro, First Session and Second Session.
This week we are going to add a cute ruffle to our pillow case and add some topstitch detail to create a crisp, clean seam.
Let’s start with our two remaining pieces of fabric.  Place them right sides together and pin along one of the short lengths.

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Sew a straight line with your stitch length set at about 2. 

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Don’t forget to backstitch at the start and finish! 
Open up your seam and press.

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During the first lesson, we cut two pieces of our contrasting fabric into 6”x20” pieces.  Let’s be crazy and cut one more of those pieces to really give our ruffles some, well, ruffle!  Attach it to the end of the piece that you just sewed in the same manner that you did the first. 
You should end up with a piece that is 6”x60”.

Fold the entire piece lengthwise, with wrong sides
facing each other.  Like this.

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Now give it a good press with a steamy iron to make a nice crease all the way down. 

Some people use “ironing” and “pressing” interchangeably.  Did you know that there is a difference between the two?
Ironing is what we do to clothing and involves sliding the heated iron across the fabric to remove wrinkles.  When you are sewing, you will want to press your heated iron onto the fabric and lift it back up.  When working with delicate fabric, it is a good idea to place a piece of muslin on top of your fabric to avoid scorching.  And never, ever, ever press over pins!  Not only will they melt, but they can leave goofy little puckers in your fabric that are hard to get out.  As you sew more and more, you will find that pressing will give your piece a
more professional appearance, even if there are mistakes.  A good press with a steamy iron can cover a multitude of sins! 
 
Now you are going to set your stitch length to the longest stitch.  On my machine, this is a 4.   Sew down the length on the opposite side of the crease you just pressed, but do not do a backstitch.  Leave about 6 inches of thread on each end. 

Now we’re going to another length of stitches, just to
the left of the previous one.

Here comes the fun part! 
Take hold of the bottom threads and gently gather the fabric.  Don’t pull too hard or you’ll break your thread.  Scoot your fabric around until you get a nice, pretty ruffle.

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Continue gathering until the length of your ruffle
is about 36 inches. 
Fold your ruffle in half lengthwise and pin.  Then set your stitch length back to 2 and sew a straight line.  Backstitch at the start and finish. 

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Open it up and you will have a circle of ruffle!  Place the ruffle around the outside of the main pillow case (at the open end) and begin pinning it in place, lining the raw edges of the pillow case with the raw edges of the ruffle.

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If your ruffle is too short or too long, adjust your ruffle so that if fits all the way around.  Start at one of the seams of the main piece and begin sewing.  Try to stay to the left of your ruffling stitches.  

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Remember to remove the pins as you sew.  When you’ve made your way around the entire pillow case, backstitch and turn the ruffle right side out.  If you accidentally go over the ruffle stitch, it is ok.  If you want, you can remove it with your seam ripper after you turn your ruffle right side out.

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On the inside, press the seam towards the pillow case.

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The final step is to topstitch.  This will create a clean, crisp seam and adds a little extra detail.  It will also hold the raw edge of the ruffle in place.  You can use a contrasting color of thread if you feel like being fancy.  I used blue.

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Topstitch all the way around your pillow case, and remember to backstitch at the start and finish.  You can see my topstitch detail in the photo below.

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And that’s it!  Put a pillow in your case and admire your work.  Then put on your cap and gown because you are a Sew Basic graduate!

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I hope that you’ve enjoyed this project and learned something about sewing.  Perhaps this little series has sparked a new interest and hobby for you?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please leave me a comment or email me at tinanicole12 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Here’s a big thanks to my sweet blog friend, Meg for teaming up with me on this.  Don’t forget to visit her next week and link up your pillow case!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Fabric Flower Greeting Cards

I’m kind of a pack rat when it comes to fabric. 
I never throw any scraps away.  Ever.
Which is kind of funny if you know me in real life because I don’t like clutter and I regularly toss stuff that is not
in use or has no sentimental value.
Here’s a way to use up those very last pieces of fabric and turn them into something pretty.

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You’ll need:
Scraps of fabric
Blank greeting cards
Metal brads (for scrapbooking)

Cut a lot of circles.
In a variety of sizes.
Cut a lot. A lot. A lot.
Don’t worry if they’re not perfect.

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Stack them up in unassuming pattern combinations.  Fray the edges a little if you want.

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Fold in half and snip a tiny hole with your scissors.

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Place a brad through the center and attach to a card.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can use a jeweled brad.
I wasn’t, so I used a plain one.

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Then make a few more because I know you’ve got lots of scraps.  And if you don’t?  Cut up some old flannel pajamas.  Because really, who wouldn’t want to get a card in the mail made from old flannel pajamas?

Write a sweet note on the inside, sign, seal and send it off to a lovely friend who appreciates pretty fabric. 
Or flannel pajamas. 
Whatever the case may be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sew Basic Session #2: Getting Started

Ok, class.  I hope you’ve done your homework and have your pieces cut.  If you haven’t, you can catch up here.  This week, we’re going to get your sewing machine threaded and start constructing our pillow cases.

Aaaand away we go!

While all sewing machines are different, most are threaded in the same way.  Since I am a visual learner, I thought that the best way to show this is with pictures.  (Now is a great time to bust out your machine’s manual.  If you don’t have a manual, often times you can find one simply by doing a search of your brand and model on ye old internet.)

Let’s start with winding your bobbin.  This is the little do-dad that creates the bottom portion of your stitch. 
Slide out the extension table.

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Then open the cover.

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Pull out the bobbin case with the bobbin (mine is clear) inside.  It looks like this.  Remove the bobbin from the case.

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Guide your thread through the thread guide.

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Place the bobbin on the bobbin spindle, pull thread through
the hole and press the pedal to wind it up! 
It will automatically stop when it is full. 

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Then put the bobbin back into the case, guiding the thread along the slot and through the opening.  Pull about 4 inches of thread and return it to its home and close the cover. 

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Now we’ll thread the top part of the machine.
Start by placing your spool onto the spool pin, and pulling the thread through the upper needle thread guide.  Then follow the arrows and guide your thread down, catching it on the little hook at the bottom, and back up to the thread take up.  From there, pull your thread down to the needle and thread it from front to back.

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Since we’re looking at my sewing machine, you’ll see that it is neither expensive, fancy or high end.  You don’t need top of the line to make beautiful things.  Mine cost about $120 over ten years ago and still works perfectly.

You’ll notice that I pointed out three features above:

Stitch Selector: Most machines have a variety of stitches available, such as a straight, overcasting, smocking and zigzag.  For this project, we are going to use a simple straight stitch.  When changing your stitch, make sure that your needle is in the “up” position so that it doesn’t catch on your fabric and snag it.
Stitch Length: The shorter the stitch, the stronger it will be.  For sewing medium weight fabrics, a 2 or 3 is a good stitch length.  Next week, we’re going to make a ruffle, so we’ll increase our stitch length for that.
Reverse Stitch Lever: This little lever will cause your machine to go into reverse.  It is often used at the start and finish of a line of sewing to “lock” stitches into place so that they don’t pull apart. 

Are you still with me?  Good.  Let’s finish getting the machine ready to go.  We’re almost there.

Turn the knob on the right side of the machine to raise and lower the needle.  This will catch your bobbin thread and pull it up.  Pull both threads to the back, like a little tail.

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Ok, now that your machine is set up, take some time and practice.  Get out some scrap fabric and go to town.  If you don’t have scraps, you can use paper!  Seriously!  When I was a kid, my grandma used to let me sew on her machine with a piece of notebook paper, following the lines so that I learned to sew a straight line. 
Practice until you are comfortable and find the right pressure to apply to your foot pedal.
Remember, this isn’t the Indy 500.
Slow down, sister. 
Take your time. 
Experiment with the various stitch lengths and if your machine has a variety of decorative stitches, check those out, too!

When you’re good and ready, place your two large pieces of fabric right sides together.  Pin all the way around.  As you get more comfortable with sewing, you may not need to pin as often.  But I recommend it.

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Lift your presser foot and slide your fabric under.  Return the presser foot to the “down” position and line the edge of the fabric up with the 3/8 seam guide on the needle plate.

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Are you ready?  Take a deep breath and gently press the foot pedal.  Sew about 4 stitches and then press the reverse stitch lever and then continue sewing.  The reverse stitch is going to hold the thread in place so that it doesn’t come out.  Some people call this “backstitching.”

Let the machine do the work for you.  Don’t push or pull on your fabric.  Your job is to gently guide it.

Take your pins out as you sew.  Some people sew right over them, but I always take them out as I go.  It’s not worth risking a broken needle.  I sew right up to the needle then I remove it.

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Keep on going until you get the the end of your length of fabric.  When you are about 1/2 inch from the bottom, stop sewing.  Keeping the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot your fabric to line up with the 3/8 inch seam guide.  Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.  Do this again when you reach the next corner.

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Sew all the way around 3 sides of your pillow case.  When you reach the end, do another backstitch.  I like to clip my corners (but don’t cut into your stitching!) so that when turned right side out, they are nice and pointy.

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Open the seams and give them a good press with a steamy iron.  This will make it look much more professional
when you turn it right side out. 

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That’s it!  You did it! 
Next week we are going to make a cute little ruffle and learn how to topstitch to keep our seams nice and crisp!

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Don’t forget to stop over and visit Meg to check out her progress!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sew Basic Session One: Fabric, Thread and Cutting

When starting to sew, it is important to get to know various types of fabric.  Let’s get the textbook stuff out of the way first, shall we?  I promise there won’t be a pop quiz!

Fabric can be made from natural fibers, synthetic (manmade), or a combination of both.  Natural fabrics include cotton, silk, wool and linen.  Synthetics include things like polyester, nylon and rayon. 
The way that fabric is manufactured falls into one of two categories – woven and knit.  Woven fabrics are made by weaving the threads together horizontally and vertically and don’t have much stretch.  Denim, linen, corduroy and tweed are wovens.  Knit fabrics have lots of stretch to them.  (Think: t-shirts and sweatshirts.)  These fabrics are made using the same stitches that are used when knitting a scarf.  Sewing knit fabrics can be challenging because of their propensity to stretch, so it’s important to know exactly how to work with these fabrics.

Ya still with me?  Here are some basic terms to keep in mind.

Selvage Edge: The finished edge of the fabric that runs the length of the grain.  This edge is usually white with the manufacturer’s name on it.  It is woven tightly and won’t unravel.
Grain: Threads that run parallel to the selvage edge.
Crossgrain: Threads that run across the width of the fabric.
Bias: Threads that run at a 45 degree angle to the grain. If you pull on the bias, you will get the most stretch.

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Let’s talk about thread.  Selecting your thread for sewing is much more than simply making sure that the colors match or coordinate.  Choosing the right thread can make or break your project.  There are lots of resources out there to educate you on the gazillion types of threads, but for the purpose of this project, I’ll suggest that using a cotton or a cotton wrapped polyester thread in a size 50.  Both are good for general sewing of light to medium weight fabric.

Now! On to the fun part!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your pillow case:

3/4 yard of cotton fabric
1/2 yard of coordinating cotton fabric
Sewing machine
Thread
Scissors
Straight pins
Rotary Cutter and Mat (optional but recommended)
Seam Ripper (a sewing girl’s BFF)
Ruler or tape measure

Ok, here we go.  Are you ready?
The first step is easy.

Wash, dry and iron your fabric.  It’s best to get any shrinking out of the way before you start sewing.  Save yourself the disappointment of creating something you are proud of only to have it get all wonky after it comes out of the wash.

Now we’re going to cut into that lovely fabric.  You’ve heard the saying, “Measure twice, cut once,” no?  Let’s make sure that we do just that.  Especially when working with expensive fabric.
There’s nothing more frustrating than doing a hack job to your fabric because you didn’t measure correctly. 

I recommend laying your fabric out onto a large table and marking your measurements with chalk or a fabric pencil.  You can erase mistakes with a damp cloth if you need to start over.

We are going to cut two pieces of 19”x27” out of your large piece of fabric and two pieces of 6”x20” out of your small piece.

Lay your 3/4 yard piece of fabric out and fold in half, so that the selvage edges match up.  If you’re using a rotary cutter and mat, here’s a great tutorial for getting started.  If you are a beginner, you may want to practice using some old t-shirts before you cut into your pretty fabric. 

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Using your ruler and chalk, mark your fabric and cut.  Open up the fold and cut so that you have two pieces measuring 19”x27”.

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Now let’s get our other piece of fabric and cut out two 6”x20” pieces, just like we did above.

But, let’s stop here for just one second.  I matched my selvage edges up, but do you see how the top is uneven?  That is because the fabric was not placed evenly onto the bolt by the manufacturer.  Just make sure that you keep those selvage edges matched up and trim off the uneven.

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There.  That’s better.

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Here are all my pieces.

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That’s it!  That wasn’t so bad, was it? 
In the next session, we’ll learn how to set up your
machine and start constructing our pillow case. 
Make sure that you visit Meg to see her progress!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tutorial: Kids Belt

We have a teeny tiny little problem. 
It’s Hannah’s waist. 
She’s tall and slender so pants that fit in the waist are too short and pants that fit in length fall down.  Even pants with the adjustable elastic sometimes don’t cinch tight enough
for her lean little bod.

So we fixed that with my latest project –
The Belt It Out Toddler Belt!

All you need is some scrap fabric, fusible interfacing,
two 1” D-rings, a sewing machine and thread.

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I started out by measuring Hannah’s waist. 
I added about 6 inches to the measurement and
cut out a 23”x3” piece of scrap fabric.

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Then I ironed a piece of fusible interfacing to the back.

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I folded right sides together lengthwise and began sewing.  I sewed all the way down the length and across the bottom,   leaving the top open.

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Then I turned it out,

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and gave it a good press.

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Next I pressed the unfinished edge over about 1/2 inch.

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Then I slipped the D-rings on and tucked the unfinished end under.

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Finally, I stitched across to hold the D-rings in place.

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It was so simple that I finished in less than 20 minutes. 
Hannah looks darling in her new belt, but would agree to a photo shoot only if I took a pic of the belt and
not her sweet little face. 

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Well, that and animal crackers. 
I’m not above it.