February 19th, 2009
All the rage here at Laura’s Sewing School, we are having such fun and interest in making Amy Butler’s gumdrop pillows that I have scheduled a one day workshop for us to go wild and make them together. I will order the stuffing and patterns and you will purchase the fabric of your choice. You can see the details (dimensions, materials list) about the pattern on Amy Butler’s website.
These cushions are made of drapery weight fabric. You can find that weight of fabric here in Arlington, at Fabric Corner, at Freddy Farkel’s in Watertown (also known as Fabric Showplace) and online. Fabric Corner just ordered a large selection of Amy Butler home dec fabrics and they have received 12 of them! They will go fast, especially because they will be posting them for online sale, too. So, you may want to get there as soon as you can to pick up the fabric. If the weight is fine, it can be any brand of fabric. You just don’t want a fabric which is too loosely woven, or unravels easily. Fabric.com has a nice selection of Amy Butler printed twills if you want to use her fabric designs. There are 8 panels, all the same, which are sewn together like sections of an orange. They are packed with a LOT of stuffing. I found hand sewing the first one, Amy Lou actually did that work since it was her project, rather tedious. So, when I made MY first one, I used an invisible zipper to close the pillow once it was stuff. Much easier and quicker.
Kids absolutely love this pillow. They have found it as a great place to sit and bounce and roll on or off. Adults do find it useful as a footrest. You can make them with one fabric or two. If you cut it from one fabric, you fussy cut it, making sure that it is cut in the very same place on the fabric, for all the pieces. This makes interesting, kaleidoscopic patterns, especially if the fabric has symmetry. You can see this on both of Amy’s pillows. Even though I used 2 fabrics in the pillows for my nieces, I did cut all of the large-scale, patterned fabric in the same place. There is an octagonal patch on the top of the cushion. I fussy cut that, centering it on a flower or pattern.
I propose that the workshop be on Sunday, March 15th. From 10am-4pm. That should give us plenty of time to work and eat and stuff and finish one gumdrop cushion. The next one, you will be able to do on your own and much faster. I will provide the stuffing and the pattern. You provide the fabric, thread (good quality polyester like Gutermann or Mettler) and an invisible zipper in a matching color. The only part of the zipper to show will be the tab. Buy a 12-14″ zipper or longer. It will work for either size pillow. And, if you have to buy a longer zipper to get a color match, it is very easy to shorten. Better too long than too short! The Fabric Corner sells invisible zippers and the presser foot to apply it to your project. I just talked to them about ordering enough for all of you. The presser foot is adaptable to most sewing machines and can be used over and over again. It is reasonably priced and worth buying.
I will have to price out the patterns and stuffing. So, I will have to get back to you on the price for the class. I think that we can have 5, possibly 6 students for the day. Let me know if you want to take the class and I will let you know the price. If the 22nd of March is better than the 15th, let me know. I am flexible about the date. If you are available during the day, M-F, I could possibly meet with you for a workshop on a Thursday. I am excited about this project.
January 28th, 2009
We are in a time when people are concerned about their jobs and income. Many of us are looking for ways to save money by doing things ourselves we may have paid to have done it the past. Sewing can be a great skill to have with this in mind. Hiring a decorator costs money. And, having any curtains or pillows or bed clothes made for you, is unbelievably expensive. (I promise that I will post pictures ASAP) This is too boring to read without illustrations….well maybe not boring, but far easier to understand if you have photos to look at.)
You can save a lot by making your own roman shades or other items. I made 9 roman shades for a sunroom I had. I designed them to pull up from the bottom or drop down from the top. That way, I could still have light and an open feel, but gain privacy on the street side of the house. There are some custom mail order services which will make your curtains and shades to order. One very good one is Smith & Noble. They do quality work with a quick turn around. They have very nice fabric options, etc. I looked up the price of one roman shade. At the time, they offered top down OR bottom up options separately, not together. One shade with similar measurements to mine would cost $250 at that time (7 yrs ago?)
I made 9 shades from some sale fabric I liked, and spent approximately $100 for all 9, including the hardware, wood (for mounting boards and slats at the top and bottom of the shades) and cording. I even made shade pulls for the ends of the cords out of Fimo clay. I was able to use a color which went well with the fabric. Make them the size I wanted and then set the clay by baking it in the oven. Didn’t smell the best, but the weather was warm so I opened the windows.
I reupholstered a wing chair I have. It is a quality piece originally from Ethan Allen. The fabric on it was a large bargello weave. There was a tack line along the wings, arms and base of the chair. It took me forever to get the tacks out. They were only decorative. I think there were over 300 of them. I never liked the tacks because they would rub along the bone between my elbow and wrist. I saw some fabric I liked at Fabric Place and bought enough for the chair. I thought I would do it myself. Then I changed my mind and decided to have it done for me. I was going to cost me $585 without the cost of the fabric. I waited until I could put aside that kind of money for it. I forgot about it for awhile. That was until almost 3 years ago. I had a student who came to me, who was taking an upholstery class at the Fabric Place in Framingham at the same time as mine. It was 10 weeks long. Toward the end of the FP class, she told me that I needed to help her finish her wing chair. I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was the best person to help her. She insisted that I could. And, that I should do my own chair for practice. I had worked a short time for an upholsterer in Northern Wisconsin in 1988. I had done cushions and foot stools and many other projects. But, I was a little shy about a wing chair. They are a more advance item to work on. I have a lot of books on upholstery. I find it very interesting and I have done a few slipcovers.
So, she convinced me to do it. I focused all my spare sewing time on it for 10 days. I took very good notes as I removed each part of the original cover, so that I could remember how things went together. I saved all the fabric panels to use as patterns. What surprised me, is that once the agony of extracting so many tacks and staples was over, that upholstering the piece was far easier than slipcovering it would have been. You cut panels of fabric larger than you need in a shape similar to the original. Staple it to the frame in a certain order and then cut away the excess fabric. It requires very little actual sewing! The only things I needed to sew were piping/welting and the cushion cover and arm covers. It came out very well. And, even though I spent time on the project, I enjoyed it and continue to enjoy the chair in my Living Room. One funny thing was that I thought I had bought the fabric 2 years before. Fabric Place would always place a sales slip on the fabric when you bought it. I hadn’t removed the slip and when I looked at it, I realized that I had bought the fabric 4 years earlier! You must use no fabric before its time..it must age appropriately…..(that’s a take-off from an old wine commercial with Orson Welles saying, “We sell no wine before its time.”)
Simpler projects can be fast and easy. I made my dog 2 different beds from fabric left over from other projects. I’ve made pillows, valances, bookcase curtains on swing rods. Placemats, table runners, tablecloths, napkins, sewing machine covers, book covers, (I don’t want people knowing what I really read, “fluff,” or as one of my HS students calls it “Chiclet reading.”) It’s hard to even think or list all the home items I have made. Oh, another is a bean bag ottoman cube. I have one in my school’s living room area. It is very comfortable to rest your feet on and is simply a cube.
Bedroom items: shams, quilts, duvet covers, dust ruffles, curtains, throw pillows, hanger covers for those clothes which are not worn often, so you want to cover the shoulders to keep off the dust.
Bathroom: Shower curtains (to be used with a waterproof liner), window curtains or roman shades or valances, sink skirts, cosmetic bags or a hanging storage bag with pockets for all of the separate items.
I could go on, and I probably will. But, it is getting late and I do want to post some pictures for you. So, I will sign off for now.
January 28th, 2009
When I was setting up my shop, I talked about what it was like and what I wanted to do to it. I haven’t updated any of that for a long time, nearly 2 years. I have the before pictures on my shop computer and will make sure I load them on the original post about the bathroom. Right now, I am writing from home. But, I wanted to post current (Jan 2009) pictures of the bathroom. So, here are some shots.
Since this bathroom doesn’t get wet from a bath or shower, it has allowed me to really go wild decorating it with items that wouldn’t stand up to the humidity of a full bath. And, I hope it can inspire you with decorating ideas.
I did get a new vanity, faucet and mirror installed, not too far into 2007. The vanity is very nice. It is shallow, has a porcelain sink, and the style of it and the mirror go really well with the bead board walls and pressed tin ceiling. The 3 came as a set from Lowe’s. I found the faucet after much searching. It is the only water source in my shop, so I needed it to be flexible. High enough to fill pitchers with water. And, be a good quality. I finally went to Brickman’s in Waltham. Unfortunately, they are now gone. They were a “fixture” on Moody street for many years. The faucet cost more than the vanity package. Then, when the plumbers came, I found out that the installation was going to be more than the cost of the vanity and faucet combined. This was because it was a commercial installation. These are the hidden costs of running a business. I have never regretted getting this improvement.
Two of the first things I installed in the bathroom were a toilet paper holder and a towel ring. When I moved in, the painters had painted with the TP holder in place with TP on it. There was tissue stuck to the wall! Uck! And, the towel bar was just above it. Standard-issue hardware store, bent square shaped rod, with screw plates at each end, chrome, of course. I took a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond and got the holder and towel ring. They are very sturdy, well-priced and look nice.
I hung a paper towel holder on the wall which use to be in my grandmother’s kitchen in Northern Minnesota.
Above that is a counted cross stitch of a bundle of pansies. That was made by my Mom. She is a dedicated cross stitcher. I have another piece she did for my last birthday. It is a Welcome sign. It has sewing implements on it, which make up the letters. It is hanging about the coat rack at the front of the shop.
The ceilings are tin and really high, so I had space above the pansies and the sink mirror. I was at TJ Maxx and found a framed print. I thought I would use it at home, but the colors and style made me think of the fabric and colors in the bathroom at the shop. So, I brought it there and it fit the space sideways really well. Plus, it covered a small (1.5″ dia.) hole in the beadboard.
The light fixture on the wall was ugly and operated by a twist switch. I installed a wireless switch on the outside of the bathroom door frame. Then I screwed the other end into the fixtures socket, then the bulb into that. I removed the frosted glass shade and attached a beaded/sequined silk shade which has crystals hanging from the bottom. I had those on some sconces in my old house which were above the fireplace. I bought them from a wall lamp vendor at the Minnesota State Fair. I cannot remember who he was. But, he made lamps with would hang on the wall, and the cord was hidden in a pipe which curved and resembled a vine with leaves. They were nice.
I bought swag finials and screwed those into the upper corners of the window. I draped a black embroidered shawl over them and that covered a telephone junction box on the window frame.
I found a small, striped, wool rug at TJ Maxx & More in Woburn that goes well on the floor.
There is a painted wooden vessel at the base of the vanity. I bought it from Target. It looks nice, just a little decorative addition to the small space.
On the wall behind the door, I made a long curtain that fits on a continental tension rod. It is a semi-sheer fabric with shiny holographic dots on it. It picks up the light from the star lights hanging in front of it really well. The lights were a gift from a friend who bought them from IKEA. The only problem I had making the curtain was that the dots would stick to the soleplate of my iron and somewhat to the ironing table. I had someone give me some fabric and included was a multi-colored printed sheer. I split it in half lengthwise, sewed both halves together at the middle so it would be long enough to drape along the top of the wall curtain.
I attached a dragonfly hook on the back of the door. I purchased it from Restoration Hardware some years ago to put in the half bath of my old house. It has a verdigris finish. I thought it would come in handy when students use the bathroom as a changing room.
The plant on top of the toilet tank has survive my neglect for nearly 2 years. I am terrible with house plants. I do well with the window boxes because I have to water them everyday. It is part of my opening routine. But, give me a house plant and you are sentencing it to a long and slow death. I should not have admitted this. The plant was given to me by some very good friends as a “shop” warming gift. I moved it to the bathroom so I might remember to water it more often. Maybe that is why it is still hanging in there.
January 28th, 2009
Here are just a few photos I had posted on my Wirkkala Designs website. I thought that I would copy them here. The first is of the curtains and pillows I made for the Master Bedroom in my old house. You may recognize them, since they now hang in the front windows on my Sewing School!
Second picture is of a lamp I found in the trash. I cleaned it up, had it rewired and made a lampshade out of some Elephant print fabric I have, which you may recognize from a quilt I have pictured below and in another post. I glued the trim on with white glue. I prefer double sided tape nowadays. Less messy, instant tack and no burning potential when using a hot glue gun. This picture was taken at the base of the stairway, leading to the 1/2 bath on the first floor of my old place. The painting on the wall is a watercolor I did. I copied a picture of leaves scattered on the forest floor.
The third picture is of my daughter’s crib, from when she still slept in one. Of course, she slept with the side on, but the picture looked much better without the railing. I made the dust ruffle, bolster pillow, the bumper pads and the duvet cover for the crib-sized down comforter. (The only place I was able to find that size of down comforter was at the Company Store in Wisconsin) Amelia still uses the duvet and even though she is too long for it to cover her, she takes it with her on sleepovers and, at home, has me put it on top of all her other blankets. Once I pieced the top, I backed it with cotton batiste, stitched those layers together in the ditch so that it would keep the patchwork seams from fraying in the wash. It has worked well because this cover has been washed many times in the last 8.5 years. Don’t you just love the walls behind the crib? They were painted during the 4 days I was in the hospital when I had Amelia. The painters did this beautiful paint effect. Plus, they painted faint cloud images on the ceiling. Dave Matuccio and his crew did the work. Great guys.
January 23rd, 2009
Following up from the Quilt project posting, here are pictures of various projects I completed in 2008. It’s not all of them, but the ones that are loaded into my shop computer. As you scroll onto the picture, each has a label of what it is. Just like on the other pages, if you click on the photo, it will enlarge. To return to this page, click on the Back Button. (When I made so many items from a duvet cover: shower curtain, sink skirt, a top and a dress and then had some fabric left over, I couldn’t help but think of Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind.” Their take on “Gone with the Wind.” Check it out on YouTube, especially part 2 and the dress she makes…… Part 1 and Part 2)
January 21st, 2009
Well, I haven’t been very prolific when it comes to posting new things. I do sew as much as I can, but haven’t been keeping up with posting pictures of my work. And, I have made more things than I have the photos to prove. So, I thought I would quickly post my latest quilt project. I make quilts, not for money, but for friends and family. There is so much time and work involved, it would not be a financially viable way to make a living. I do it for the love of the process and the recipient. Piecing a quilt top requires precision, and since I have a streak of perfectionism in me, it is a good outlet for that. (To see an image closeup, click on it. To return to this page, press the Back button.)
The pictures of the individual blocks are in order from left to right, top to bottom. If you look closely, you can see that I put the border print in every block. I had to “fussy cut” them but the effort was worth it.
The Last picture is of the pillow my daughter, Amelia, made for Joan. She took scraps from when I was making the center block, and without help from me, cut and sewed the pinwheel. Then, she asked me to rotary cut some strips. She did all the sewing and stuffed the pillow and hand-sewed it closed.
This quilt was started in the fall. It was a gift for my daughter’s great aunt, who was suffering from cancer. I had bought a set of 1800′s reproduction fabrics from Keepsake Quilting in New Hampshire. My friend, Sara, and I went on a day trip there a few years ago. We wanted to see their store and take a day off together. She makes wonderful quilts. Sara always has a quilt in process and is very organized. She brings a file folder of fabric swatches with her so that she can fill out the colors needed for the quilt. I tend to enter a store and buy what appeals to me. I didn’t plan on buying anything that day. But, of course, I could not resist…… 19th century style fabrics are not what I usually work with. I tend to like batiks, bright colors, and more contemporary styled prints, including some modern. I bought a variety which would go together well. Trying something new, or should I say “old?” I thought I would make a feathered star quilt. But, as I let my fabric age, I never started it. When I thought of doing so, I couldn’t find them in my stash and then, when I could find them, I had misfiled the pattern.
Last Fall, I decided to make a quilt for Joan. I thought she would like the more traditional fabrics. She was a fine needleworker. Amelia received several gorgeously made smocked garments. And, Amelia was christened in a gown Joan had made for her children, grandchildren and other family members. Amelia was the 11th to wear it 9 years ago. She was a photographer, and writer, too. I decided to use Biblically inspired blocks for the quilt, since Joan and her husband are devoted Christians. I used 2 books by Rosemary Makhan for the patterns, “Biblical Blocks” and “More Biblical Blocks.”
The 6 squares above and below the center block, are 12 inches square and placed on point. They are divided in thirds, fifths, sixths and sevenths. That means that some of my cutting was to the 1/16th of an inch, yikes! For the triangular piecing, I used a paper piecing technique using freezer paper patterns. I used freezer paper templates, ironed to the fabric for the odd shaped pieces in the Tree of life block. The rest were cut to size and pieced together. The borders were cut to show the pattern at its best. It was hard to match them at the corners since the pattern in the red section was not symmetrical. I was in a hurry to put on the outside border, so I just crossed my fingers and left it up to serendipity that they would look good. It turned out better than if I had tried to second guess it. As you have probably figured out, I did all of the cutting and sewing for the quilt top.
Since I needed a fast turnaround on the quilting, I decided to have a professional machine quilter do the work, if I could find someone who was available. Georgette Gagne of Black Wolf Quilting Services was able to help me. I gave her the top on a Sunday afternoon. She lives in Webster, NH. We met the following Wednesday at 5pm in Nashua. I drove right back to my shop and started putting on the binding. I finished it after my evening class, around Midnight. I printed a label on my inkjet printer. I set the ink with a dry iron. The printing was done by ironing a sheet of 8.5 x 11″ sheet of freezer paper to the back of the fabric. I trimmed the sides evenly and ran it through my HP. I used the same fabric as the quilt backing. So, to have it stand out, I bordered it with a rust colored print, which coordinated with the binding fabric.
I used the freezer paper piecing method on my Elephant Walk quilt, pictured below. It hangs in my shop near the cutting table. It is easy and precise. All of the triangles in the compass and the borders are done this way. It was especially helpful when I did all of the green triangles in the Tree of Life Block. This technique was the brain child of Judy Mathieson. I took a workshop with her a few years back in which I did the center compass of the Elephant quilt. She is an extremely talented quilter whose best known for her Mariner Compass quilts. Since I was intent on using the Elephant print fabric somewhere, she suggested that I have Elephant’s walking across the quilt. Thank you, Judy! I machine pieced all of the geometrics. I hand appliqued the various Elephants who are walking outside the lines. Needle turning under the 1/8″ inch wide tail of the smallest elephant is not something I would like to do again. Then, I machine quilted in the ditch around all of the triangles and compass points and borders. Then I free-motion quilted around all of the elephants and plants and flowers and the cream colored background of the center block. Trimmed bound and labeled it. The label is also done on the inkjet printer, like the Biblical quilt above. It’s been in 3 shows.
October 8th, 2008
Kathy and I first met when she started attending one of my classes 6 years ago. She heard about me through her friend, Mary Poor, who had been taking lessons with me. Kathy kept coming week after week, month after month. She started with home dec, never imagining she would sew clothing, let alone, knits. Now, Kathy’s outlet is sewing and she has a fabulous new sewing room in the house she and her husband, Noam, just moved into after lengthy renovations.
Kathy has become a very good friend and has gone exploring the internet and fabric websites and pattern makers I hadn’t even known existed. Recently, we took a trip out to Sawyer Brook Fabrics in Clinton, MA, together. Pattern Review arranged a special day visiting SBF. They opened the showroom on a Saturday for us, gave us a preview of their fabric line and let us loose in the showroom to purchase fabric. I only bought 4 pieces, hah! A beautiful silk tweed; a soft, pinwale printed corduroy; and 2 different knits. I will post pictures when I finish those garments. After we finished at SBF, we all went to a lovely orchard in Sterling, MA. called Meadowbrook Orchards. The sandwiches were great and do not miss their apple turnovers.
So, back to Kathy. I am posting pictures of a few of the items she has made. I think you will enjoy working with her. She is positive and can help you understand working with knits from purchasing them, matching them to the right pattern and construction techniques on a regular sewing machine. If you have a serger, you are welcome to bring it, but it is not required to be able to take this class.
Please check out the web links on the right column for resources.
Patterns: Jalie, Christine Jonson, the major pattern companies: McCall’s, Butterick, Simplicity, Kwik Sew, Burda, New Look, Green Pepper all have patterns for knits. The Ottobre Designs Magazine always has some nice patterns for knit clothing. You can buy these patterns at each of the listed companies’ websites, plus: JoAnn’s, Pattern Review (website), Sewing Patterns.com, The Sewing Place, Sewzanne’s and others.
Since Fabric Place is closing, it is harder to find good quality knits locally. Online is our best resource for buying knits. This can be scary for us who like to feel the fabric before we buy it. Most online services will send you swatches of fabrics which interest you. And, places like Sawyer Brook, offer a regular swatching service in which you receive swatches of the new fabrics several times a year. Usually there is a small fee for this service, but it is worth it.
I have several sites listed. There are so many great knits available today. Eco friendly like Bamboo, or even Soy! Tencel, Rayon, Cotton and blends and Polyester and hemp, this list goes on. Check out: Emma One Sock; Sewzanne’s; Gorgeous Fabrics; Christine Jonson; Fashion Fabrics Club; Vogue Fabrics; Sawyer Brook Fabrics; The Rain Shed (known for activewear and outdoor fabrics), Denver Fabrics and I am sure there are other places I haven’t encountered, yet.
Kathy will be going over the basics for choosing the right materials for your project. Have some ideas in mind coming to the first class. One thing you need to know is that patterns for wovens are sized for woven fabrics. There is extra room built in for “wearing ease.” There needs to be space between you and the fabric so that you can move your body. With knits, the fabric itself has wearing ease built into it, from a little to a lot. Have you ever bought a knit shirt that was smaller than your body, but when you put it on, it fit perfectly? To get a skin tight, curve-hugging fit, the knit shirt had to be made smaller than your body measurements in order to fit that way. The give of the knit fabric allows it to hug your shape.
Different knits, have different stretch. Some stretch more in one direction than another. Most sweaters have more give across your body than up and down. Knits designed for activewear usually stretch equally across an up/down. Double knits, you may remember the cursed Leisure Suits of the 70′s, are very stable and hardly stretch at all. You would use a pattern for wovens for this type of knit.
Denver Fabrics has a very good page on their website describing different types of knits and their appropriate uses for garments. They also describe how much stretch is in different percentages of stretch suggested for patterns. You see, each pattern for knits will have a stretch guide on the back of the pattern envelope. For example. A 50% stretch fabric means that if you take a 4 inch piece of fabric, it must stretch at least 6 inches wide to qualify to be used in the pattern calling for 50% stretch. On Sewzanne’s web site, there is a description in the right hand column of each particular knit, how it is made and best suggested uses. So, if you click on the page for “French Terry,” it tells you its definition in the right hand column, next to the color listings.
I have been playing with knits more lately because of Kathy’s encouragement. I bought some Jalie patterns through Pattern Review. As a member, I receive a discount on patterns purchased through their website. Nearby is a picture of my daughter. She is wearing a shirt I made for her from Jalie pattern 2788. It is the twist top pattern with a couple of alterations. I made a girls size “8″ (Jalie sz “L”), but lengthened it quite a bit. As you can see, she is thin and long. I raised the back neckline so it no longer scoops or needs a tie. She wanted long sleeves that flare out at the bottom. A nice part of Jalie patterns is that they are sized from a girl’s size 2 up to a plus sized woman’s. I used this same pattern to make 2 different sleeveless tops for myself. You trace off your size from the heavy paper pattern. I like using Pattern Ease for this. Pattern Ease is sold by the yard. It is a non-woven polyester/rayon material which is stable in all directions and is sheer enough that it is easy to trace patterns. It is quite durable and I prefer it over Swedish Pattern paper or other tracing mediums. Fabric Corner, here in Arlington, usually carries it. It is often kept with the interfacings.
If you use Ottobre Designs, the patterns are traced off from a Magazine insert. Pattern Ease works great for this, too. Getting back to this shirt I made for Amelia on October 3rd…..After I traced and altered the pattern, I sewed the seams with the serger on a 4 thread overlock and used a twin needle for all of the hems. The 2 best things about the project were that I finished it in 2 1/2 hours and Amelia really liked the shirt and it fit her. I guess that is 3 things.
In conclusion, you will love this class. Kathy is personable and funny and knits are easier than you would think. You must know how to sew in order to join this class. This is not a class for beginners. If you are not sure where you stand, just call or email me to find out if you have enough experience.
July 20th, 2008
Before I say anything else…….CHECK YOUR MEASUREMENTS AGAINST THE PATTERN SIZE CHARTS!!!!!!!!!! The current retail market sizing does not coincide with the sizing the pattern companies use. The major American pattern companies got together in 1971 to agree on a standard for sizing their garments. They not only agreed on the standard measurements for each size but that they would not change them in the future. This means that, for the most part, those measurements matched the retail industry at that time, 1971. Over the last 37 years, the retail industry has been “deflating” sizes. Why? This is because most of us females will choose a smaller size number when offered 2 garments that are exactly the same. (Vanity is hard to admit!) Designers have been doing this for decades. Now all of the retail market has done it. And, the sizing has gotten to be very inconsistent from brand to brand and store to store. Sometimes, you don’t even know what size you will wear until you try it on.
One of the most basic things you must not get stuck on when you make your own clothing, is the number of your size. If you currently wear a size 4 in women’s, you may end up making a size 12 or 14 Misses in the patterns. The fit is what is important, not the number. Also, no matter what the style of the garment, your measurements are taken in the same place on your body as indicated on the size charts. Currently, the common placement for a “waistband” on clothing for young people (tweens, teens and young adults) is below one’s natural waistline and belly button. It can vary widely depending on the style. When the size chart refers to your waist measurement, it is referring to your natural waistline, which is above your hip bone and below your ribs. Usually, it is the smallest measurement of your torso. Please click on the following link to find the instructions to measure your body and size charts for McCall’s patterns. Each company has size charts listed on their websites.
All of the patterns have multiple sizes in each envelope. There will be at least 3 sizes, possibly more in each pattern. If your measurements span more than one size, that is OK. Several sizes are included with each pattern. If you bridge the gap between size groups (you straddle sizes 12 and 14 and the pattern you want comes in sizes (8-10-12) and (14-16-18), purchase the size that most closely matches the measurements you need for the garment you want to make. For example, if you are making pants and you are bigger on the bottom than the top, buy the larger size.
When you purchase your pattern, MAKE SURE YOUR SIZE IS INCLUDED IN THE ENVELOPE YOU PICK UP. STORES DO NOT TAKE RETURNS ON PATTERNS. The envelopes for different size groups all look the same, except in the small area designated to label what sizes are included in the package. Make sure you check for that. It will be along the top or side edge of the front of the pattern envelope.
I am including many pictures and links for patterns from the Big 3 American Pattern companies below: McCall’s, Simplicity and Butterick. Also, I found some interesting patterns from New Look and Hot Patterns. All of these are meant as suggestions for learning sewers. Usually, the less pieces and details, the easier the clothing is to make. Also, the less tailored, the easier it will be to fit you.
I strongly urge you to stick with woven cottons or linens/linen blends for your first clothing project. A nice stable fabric will be much easier to work with than something flowing or sheer or slippery. Please follow this advice. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to work with a fabric which is hard to control, especially without the experience to back you. Also, no knits! We wear knits all the time. They are so inexpensive to buy in ready-made clothing. But, for sewing, they are not easy to handle if you haven’t sewn clothing before.
When I mention cottons or linens, here are some examples. Many cottons designed for quilting are wonderful for pajama bottoms, skirts and tops. Flannel is great for pajamas. Linen and blends can work very well for any of these items depending on the weight, or thickness, of them. Cotton eyelet can work nicely. Also, for a closer fitting skirt or pant, you can find some nice bottom weights, like a stretch twill cotton, which includes a little lycra. Or a lightweight denim.
Please wash & dry your fabric ahead of class time. This will preshrink the fabric and remove any sizing (starch) and residual pesticides that have been added to the material to keep it well in transit and storage and on display. Do not use fabric softener in the wash or softener sheets in the dryer. If you will be using a fusible interfacing, the softener will keep it from adhering to the fabric. After the garment is made, it is fine to use fabric softener when it is laundered.
Make sure to check the back of the pattern envelope. It has a lot of information. Here are the items to take note of: a list of required “notions.” These are the items you need such as thread (which they may or may not list), a zipper, buttons, hooks and eyes, elastic, cording, etc.; you may need “interfacing.” This is material which goes between the layers of fabric to give you more strength and stability in certain areas or the gament like, the collar, cuffs and button band, the waistband, the neck and armhole area of sleeveless, collarless shirts, etc.; the patterns below may suggest lining, Bemberg/Ambiance rayon lining is wonderful or you may want a cotton batiste, but, I hope that there is no lining in your first project.
As far as thread goes, buy a good quality 100% polyester thread such as Gutermann or Mettler. Both are made in Germany. One spool is usually enough for a basic project. Do not buy discount, cheap thread. As with fabric, you will be spending a lot of time and effort sewing, don’t scrimp when it comes to thread. If it is low quality, your garment may fall apart at the seams. Purchase a color which blends with your fabric. If you cannot find the exact color, use one that comes close in the same shade (lightness or darkness.) If you must choose a color which is a slightly different shade, see which one blends better. Usually, go darker for a dark fabric and lighter for a light fabric. It is hard to judge how well a thread will match by holding the spool to the fabric. If you have ever tried choosing a paint color, you may have had the experience that the sample chip from the store looks a whole lot different when the color is intensified by being painted on a wall. The spool is like the wall, what we want is the “paint chip.” The color of the spool is too intense. Separate a tail of the thread, lay it across the fabric and see how that looks. It comes across a lot different. Perception of color is subjective. It is influenced buy the colors it surrounds.
When you first work with clothing patterns, there are so many things to learn. Your first pattern will be the hardest because of this. Patterns contain a lot of information, but they also assume a certain amount of understanding in order to work with them. Once you have gone through one pattern, with help, you will find that following projects are much easier to do on your own.
I mentioned some pattern makers above. There are many other companies which produce patterns for clothing. Burda is a German based company. They have many great designs, but for beginners, I find that their instructions and illustrations lacking. Kwik Sew is based in Minneapolis, MN. They offer patterns for clothing items you may not find in the big companies. The one thing that I don’t like for beginners is that many of their patterns include a very small “seam allowance” of 1/4.” The major companies usually use a 5/8″ seam allowance. It is much easier to work with when you are learning. Vogue produces many beautiful patterns. But, they lean toward designs which require more advanced sewing skills. So, keep them in mind for later projects.
There are small pattern makers. They can have very innovative designs. Often, the instructions are geared toward a more experienced sewing enthusiast, so I recommend that you gain some skill before endeavoring to use their patterns.
I say all this because I wish you success in your first clothing project. The best way for you to finish and have pride in your work is to keep things as simple as possible. Usually, simple pants and skirts are easier to start with than tops. Some of the patterns I link below include tops and dresses. Some are very easy, like a peasant blouse. Some are a little more involved, especially if it involves setting in a sleeve or collar. I tried to only list ones which I thought would be good for a novice. Some of the tops, included in pajama patterns & separates, may be for knits and I do not recommend that you make them at this time.
The links for the patterns will lead you to the online stores the their respective companies. There are many places to buy these patterns. The companies which produce them, local fabric stores, like Fabric Place in Woburn and Framingham, or JoAnn Fabrics in Burlington, Natick, Saugus and elsewhere in the Boston Metro Area. I have links in the right hand column of this page for many resources, including a company called Sewing Patterns.com. They carry all of the pattern companies from big to small and offer good discounts and many sales.
I am happy to answer questions for you. If you want to know if a pattern no listed here would be appropriate for your project, please send me a link for it so that I can give you my feedback.
Butterick Pattern company is now part of McCall’s and Vogue. They do not have very many Kids/Teens patterns. So, go further down to Simplicity and McCall’s Listings to see more for youth.
Simplicity has some nice styles and some very up-to-date looks for young people. They have patterns inspired by the show “Project Runway.” I do not link any of those here because the patterns are more complicated to follow. But, they could be in your future if you gain the skills to make them. The Simplicity web site also lists the New Look patterns.
McCall’s has a large selection of patterns. They have been around for awhile. There are some nice styles for kids and teens, as well as women and plus sizes. The McCall’s web site also lists the Hot Patterns.
They have a lot more patterns on their website, which is linked above. Check it out for yourself. They have a set called “No Sweat Easy Sew” which I show 3 of below.
February 4th, 2008
Many of you find me online and are looking to learn how to sew or rediscover a lost skill. Now that is not true for everyone, since I do teach experience seamstresses, too. But, even if you have been sewing for a long time, you may not know how a machine works. We drive around town unaware of the mechanics of a car and we use computers while being technologically ignorant. And, that’s OK, because those machines are meant to be user friendly to those of us who don’t care to know how they work. As long as I can turn the key and go, I’m happy.
I do find that knowing how a machine works can be very helpful for understanding problems and overcoming them. Here is a website that you may find interesting for many items. This link will bring you to the sewing machine page. “How stuff works” is a great site for explaining and showing animated illustrations of how different mechanical items function. Make sure that you scroll down on this page so that you can see the animations.
When I sit down with a new student, whether they have experience or not, I try to show them how a sewing machine functions. And I explain how every standard household sewing machine is threaded in the same order. It may look different on different machines, but the function is the same. The first workable sewing machine was invented in the mid-1800′s. It is a fascinating history, for people like me who love to sew, and you can learn more by following this link to About.com Another history of the sewing machine is written on the Singer website.
The household sewing machine we use today is called a lockstitch machine. It is the one that has a thread on the top and one down below called a bobbin, which looks like a mini spool of thread. Each machine has a bobbin winding mechanism on it so that you can wind your own bobbins from the spool of thread which will be feeding from the top of your machine.
In the How Stuff Works illustrations, the first one is for a looping stitch, or chain stitch. That is done with one thread fed from the top. Your home sewing machine doesn’t do this stitch. But, this kind of stitching is like a chain stitch in crochet. It is a loop pulled through a loop and if broken, can come undone easily. Have you ever bought a paper bag of potatoes? There is a line of stitching at the top. It you cut the right end, you can just pull and all of the chain comes out.
There are other machine, used with fabrics, that produce a chain stitch. A Serger has multiple cones of thread and all of the stitches formed are made by the threads looping around each other. If pulled just right, they can come off. Of course, most people who use sergers, know how to secure the threads at each end so that this is unlikely to happen. If you look inside your clothing, you will find that the seams are all covered with thread, this is made by a serger, or overlock machine. If you want to see what one looks like click here The image you see is the model of serger/coverstitch machine I own. I wasn’t sure which one to input and there are so many brands. Just because I bought this one, it isn’t the only one I would recommend. If you want to read about the functionality, read here.
There is a series of videos I came across in my web search. It has thorough instructions on its use and how to thread and run it. The website is called Expert Village. This link leads you to the first video in a series about the serger. So, if you have a serger and need some help, visit this site to see if the video explains what you need to know. If you do not have a serger, but are curious about it, you can glean something from this, too.
If you have taken your clothes to be hemmed at the cleaners, especially dress slacks, the stitching will not show on the outside. This is because the tailor is using a blindhem machine. Often done in invisible thread, you will be hard pressed to see any stitches on the outside of the garment. These machine may also be used with curtains and other items. You may also find that it you catch your heel on the thread inside the hem, one too many times, that once the thread breaks, all the stitching comes out. The blindhem machine uses a loop stitch, and once it is no longer secured, it unravels.
So, the home sewing machine, is a lockstitch machine. 2 threads, one on top, the other below, are intertwined so that they are locked together and will not give way like a chainstitch will.
About.com has a page of interesting sewing links. I will link it here so you can go exploring, too.
If you have an old Singer, you can find out when and where it was made, by visiting the Singer website. All you need is the serial number off of the machine. They even show you how to find it. So, if you want to know when Grandma’s machine was made, visit Singer here. Or, there is one link off the About page you can explore, which will tell you the history of the brand of machine you own, or for which you are interested. It is called the International Sewing Machine Collector’s Society I have this linked to the Singer information page on About/ISMCS, but the left hand column sports links for all the old brands of machines. Some of the companies are still in business. And, some you may never have heard of. And, some of the current brands are not listed. But, it can be fun to jump around to learn what you can.
I have many sewing machines. Some are very old. My grandmother left me her old treadle machine, but it is in Minnesota, so I am not sure when I will be able to retrieve it. I have some early, electric, portable machines; my first sewing machine from the 50′s, plus some from later than that to modern computerized machines. Also, I have some industrial machines for my accessories business.
The majority of your sewing is a simple straight stitch. All of my machines from before 1960, have only a straight stitch function. In fact, I started on a “New Home” that my mother used, and it did a zigzag. Then she bought me a Viking which only did a straight stitch. At first I was upset, because I was ready to make buttonholes on a shirt I was finishing, and this machine couldn’t do it. But, it came with a buttonhole machine which had cams of various sizes and shapes of buttonholes. It makes the nicest buttonhole you have ever seen. I used that machine for several decades for all of my clothing and quilting. It was only a few years ago that I started using a more modern machine for those projects. And, it was only because I was wanting to be able to blind hem or overcast without changing machines.
I plan to put up another post about what I like in sewing machines. What to watch out for and what features are really helpful to have. I will also talk about Sewing Machine Dealers vs. big chain stores vs. online purchasing, including auction sites. Also, I am looking into posting some video instructions for “How to thread your sewing machine;” “How to wind a bobbin;” and other helpful items. I hope to have you be able to visit my site and get answers to questions you can’t find elsewhere. Or in a format that makes it easily understandable for you.
So, keep in touch and check back with me. If all else, just come to class and have me show you what you want to learn.