August 26, 2010

For Little Mommies: A “play” Diaper Bag with all the Essentials

Posted in Katie's Gallery, Videos and Step-by-Step Tutorials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:30 am by kdthreads

Baby Dear by Eloise Wilkin

When my nieces are blessed with a new sibling, I always try to make them a diaper bag with all the essentials for the “little mommy” to emulate the “big mommy.”  I do this for a number of reasons:

  • it softens the blow of being displaced by a newer, younger sibling.
  • it gives little ones something to do while mama is busy with the new arrival.
  • nurturing play is good play, and even my niece who never enjoyed dolls loved her diaper bag.
  • I grew up reading Baby Dear by Eloise Wilkin.
  • I love sewing for my nieces, and they love receiving!
  • The tote bag can be used for years to come, with or without the diapers.

Well, I am several months late on getting this bag to Polly.  She has been a big sister for eight months, and I even missed her birthday in July.  On the other hand, I am glad I got to be there when Polly received her diaper bag.  She actually didn’t look inside right away.  The bag went from my hands and over her shoulder where it stayed until her parents convinced her to let them help her look inside.  Oh the glee of a three year-old girl who receives a packet of real wipes for her own baby!  Like the supplies for the notefolios, I purchased the accessories for the diaper bag at the Dollar Tree.  They sell 2-packs of baby wipes that are half the size of regular wipes making them the PERFECT size for little mamas.  I also included 2 pink “piggy” food storage jars with matching spoon, and a bottle that has the disappearing  juice!  After I get measurements for “Baby Susu” she will get her own cloth diapers and covers and bibs.  (Baby Susu was accidentally left behind in Columbus!)  We did manage to find a stuffed dog to serve as baby doll, and Polly knew exactly what to do with her bag.  She giggled endlessly while she wiped the dog’s bottom and spooned food into his mouth.

Polly's diaper bag

I chose fabrics for her bag on the same shopping trip for the “notefolios.” (If you haven’t read that post yet, you may want to.)  I used batting to give the bag body, and I quilted the bag exterior.  I embroidered Polly’s name on the outside pocket and I appliqued a design from the main print onto the pocket as well.  Two buttons on the applique add charm., and ric-rac embellishes the seam joining the main fabric print to the accent plaid.  The plaid fabric I purchased was printed so that it would look as though it were on the bias, but it is faux!  Thus the bag holds its shape with all fabric on the grain, but the style of bias plaid.  (Read the post on Bias Tape if you do not know what I mean.)

The bag is lined in contrasting stripes, and I installed pockets on the inside for organizing supplies.  I did not install any closures, it is “open top.”  To assemble the bag, I used the same method I always use for totes.  The first few times I did this, I had to ask my mom to remind me as it is counter-intuitive, but I think that it is the easiest way to make a tote bag yielding polished results.  This is a fantastic for beginners and advanced sewers alike.  Beginners can make this as complicated as they want to learn new skills, and advanced sewers can learn the assembly method (if they don’t know it already) and enjoy the endless opportunity to install notions and other embellishments that are allowed on children’s items.

In addition to sewing and pressing basic seams, some of the techniques used in this project are:

  • quilting
  • rotary cutting
  • tote straps/handles
  • tote bag assembly
  • lining installation
  • pocket creation and installation (interior and exterior.)
  • machine applique
  • boxing corners
  • pivoting to turn corners on machine.
  • topstitching
  • french seams
  • sewing on buttons the right way!

Polly age 3 in aunt Katie's shoes with The Sak purse.

Now is a great time to begin this project and have it ready for Christmas morning.  I love when I am making a diaper bag that matches a sling, cradle bedding or doll clothes that make an exciting homemade gift.  If you or your husband are good with tools, think about making a cradle or crib and sewing a layette to go with it.  You can create pretend-play toys that your daughter will adore and you didn’t even need to pay the “Bitty Baby” price tag.  I still have the cradle set and bag my mom made for me when I was little, and since the things you sew yourself can always be repaired, these items become treasured heirlooms lovingly made by you.

Want the steps and videos for this project?  I will publish all the details for you to make this yourself after we reach our goal of 10 comments and 5 e-mail subscriptions.  (No cheating please.  One comment per reader.)

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August 4, 2010

Updated Pages!

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:06 pm by kdthreads

Check out the “Meet Me” and “Online Printables” pages for new information, photos and files for your sewing notebook!

August 3, 2010

Sewing Vocabulary:Bias Tape or Bias Binding

Posted in Q & A from You!, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:39 pm by kdthreads

Simplicity Creative Group

For everyone who read the last post and either emailed me or thought about emailing me to ask: “What on earth is bias tape and what do you mean by quilting?”  I am here with answers!

Q: What is bias tape?

A: To understand the concept of “bias” we need to back up and establish how fabric is created.  The method used to transform the threads into material is just as important for a seamstress to know as the source of the fibers themselves.  Almost all fabric is created in one of two ways: woven or knit*.  There can be endless variations of weaving and knitting giving us things like: twill, terry cloth loop, loose weave, double-knit, cable knit, stretch knit and the list goes on.  When we are talking about bias, we are working with woven fabric, not knit.

Woven fabric is made on looms.  Small, hand operated looms are generally made of wood and each project is unique.  The size of the loom limits the size of the creation.  This is why most commercial fabrics we purchase are made in factories on mechanical looms that are wide enough to accommodate 45″-60″ inches of width (or more) and endless yardage.  The first threads on the loom are referred to as the warp.  These are the foundation threads that run vertically.  The horizontal threads that interlock with the warp are called weft. Sewers (in the US) generally refer to the warp as the grain and the weft the cross-grain. The grain(warp) generally has little or no “give” or stretch.  This means if you attempt to stretch the warp threads they won’t.  The weft is the opposite, it does have some “give” to it.

So what is the bias?  Bias refers to the diagonal direction of the weave.  I am not implying there is a third set of threads that run corner-to-corner in the warp and weft (though there can be, but that is a different issue!) If you have a square piece of woven fabric and you take opposite corners and pull, your fabric will suddenly stretch and curl around the tension.

Photo Credit

Q: So how is the bias used?

Understanding weave, grain and bias are essential to manipulating fabrics and for garment construction.  Commercial patterns will include an arrow on every piece indicating how to orient this piece onto the weave before cutting.  (Generally, the arrow is meant to run parallel with the grain.) Perfecting lining up your pattern cuts with the grain takes patience, but it is the difference between your work looking sloppy and “home sewn” instead of thoughtful and polished.  A video tutorial explaining how to do this is in the making.

Stretching fabric on the bias creates fluidity and the garment (or other item)  is enhanced by movement and will follow  curves with less need for adjusting.  The art of cutting dress pieces using the bias instead of grain for the center-front became popular in the 1930’s.  All of those slinky satin dresses worn by Hollywood starlet’s began the acceptance of bias-cut in the fashion world.  Using pieces in

photo credit

which raw edges are on the bias require extra steps to prevent loss of shape due to the stress on the warp and weft. When piecing quilt blocks incorporating triangles, inevitably, a raw edge cut on the bias is involved.  Consult a quilting book, website or blog to find out which seams can be made with bias edges, and which seams MUST be grain.  a quilt with bias cut raw edges (particularly along the quilt or block perimeter) will result in an uneven, wonkified mess.

Q: What is bias tape and bias binding?

I think it makes more sense to refer to bias tape as bias strips.  Bias tape and binding can be purchased ready-made in either the packaged notions section or the by-the-yard section.  Strips of fabric cut on the bias are infinitely useful in finishing techniques on garments, home dec items, and quilting.  These strips are made using the diagonal of the grain as a guide.  These strips can be cut in any width and are generally folded twice lengthwise: once in half, and then opened and folding so that outer edges of the strip meet in the center fold creating a thick “tape” with no raw edges visible.  These strips are extremely flexible and easy to manipulate.  If your original fabric was a stripe or plaid, your bias tape will add more visual interest.  I prefer to cut my own bias strips.  For small amounts of tape, I may lay out my fabric and use a rotary cutter and ruler to make several cuts across the fabric giving me many short strips that need to be sewn together to make one longer piece.  For a big project (like making 50 yards of cording for an upholstery project) I would follow instructions for what is called “continuous bias tape.”  In other words, a method that is time-consuming, but results in one, endless strip with no pieces to sew together.  The instructions to do this should be in every person’s sewing room.

Rosalie Quinlan Designs

Bias tape and binding are basically the same thing, the difference between them is how they are used.  Bias binding is made of bias tape.  Bias binding means using the tape in its folded state  to wrap around other fabric in order to conceal raw edges, or hold multiple layers of fabric together (or both.)  At times, bias binding is applied merely to add stability: satin binding on a baby blanket.   Any clothing that has interior seams covered in fabric is most likely bias binding (and a sign of good quality.)  The cording, piping or welting you see along the edges of pillows and sofa cushions is comprised of standard poly/cotton cord covered in bias tape.   Some pattern instructions may call for bias tape to be sewn on as a casing for elastic, or to hide a hem on the inside of a garment.  When a project calls for bias tape as an embellishment or trim, opt to make your own out of fabric of your choice.  Commercially made bias trims are not made of highest quality fabrics and will take away from the appearance.

Understanding grain, bias, and how to make and use bias tape are not topics to be skimmed as your sewing skills advance.  Working with a fabric’s weave will make all the difference in every project and you will be thankful to have  bias tape handy in your sewing room to resolve many situations.  Plotting and cutting large quantities of bias strips is time consuming and tedious work with nowhere near the satisfaction of assembling a pair of shorts.  But that’s sewing and it’s worth it.

For more information, MaCall’s Quilting has a simple but thorough page on binding and preparing a quilt for binding.  Resources for quilt blocks and information on piecing bias edges are available as well.

Photo Credit

July 29, 2010

Four Videos to Expand Your Sewing Expertise

Posted in Sewing 101, Videos and Step-by-Step Tutorials tagged , , , , , , at 12:52 am by kdthreads

Photo: Husqvarna Viking USA

Even if you do not own a Husqvarna Viking sewing machine or serger, I recommend clicking here to view their four accessory demos.  These tutorials cover the Quilter’s Hoop, Adjustable Bias Binder Foot, Clear-view S-Foot and Chenille Foot.  These pieces may be far outside your skill, desire or financial realm, but watching these videos will further introduce new sewers to terms, techniques and equipment while experienced sewers can add to their repertoire.  Many other brands of machine offer accessories that perform the same functions, but I find HV the most user- friendly.

By the way, if you are thinking these tools are of no use to you, think again!  Whether you are using a $5,000 machine with magic feet or your own two hands, a seamstress should be as confident with quilting and bias binding as a carpenter with nails and glue.  Quilting is not just for bedspreads, but is a beautiful way to create purses, jackets, baby clothes, kitchen linens and energy-efficient draperies.  Bias binding is an easy way to professionally finish interior apparel seams, blanket and quilt edges, diaper covers, and just about anything else that requires a stable, polished edge.  FYI, it is easy to sew bias binding and end up with a sloppy result.  Sewing binding by hand is the most accurate, but that is time consuming on a Queen-sized quilt and impractical on reusable diaper wraps.  This accessory foot makes neatness and quality attainable in half the time.

Chenille technically refers to several strips of fabric stacked and sewn through the layers with edges frayed for a soft effect.  Chenille may make you think of fuzzy slippers, but this is one easy way to create your own textile.  Layering cotton homespun (or any loose weave) of different colors and patterns will make your chenille variegated, while identical layers create a solid color.  Homemade chenille makes cozy Christmas stockings, baby toys and even your own bathmats!

The Clear View S-Foot is great for those times you need to line up markings or fabric detail in the center of the foot instead of the side of the foot or seam allowance guides.  The foot’s name is just a different way of saying “a clear plastic foot you can see through” as opposed to a solid metal one where you can’t.  I am on the fence as to the need for this accessory, but this tutorial does expose you to “Omni Motion” or decorative stitches.  Notice the cuffs on the instructor’s sleeves; she embroidered three rows of different white on white OM stitches.

If you own a machine, and you need to break out a screwdriver every time you want to change feet, you will be amazed at the “snap-on” foot feature on these machines!

July 24, 2010

Killing Two Birds

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , at 11:57 am by kdthreads


One of the best ways to learn and master new sewing skills and techniques is following directions on commercial patterns.   Sew and Stow by Betty Oppenheimer has some great visual explanations and the text does a good job of communicating instructions to beginning sewers. What I like about this book is the number of projects that create organizational devices for sewing! As you are collecting tools and learning, you can make some storage solutions at the same time and “kill two birds with one stone.”

If you buy the book and sew one of the items, post a photo (or several photos of your creative process) and post it in the comments section!

July 23, 2010

Filling the Dressmaker’s Tool Chest

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , at 12:09 am by kdthreads

It will not take you long (or cost much money) to gather the basic tools needed for sewing. (If you did not view the videos on sewing tools, do so now!) As your skill set and confidence level grows, your tool kit will probably grow too. The notions wall in the fabric store can seem like a disorganized, intimidating mess tucked away so no one has to help you! If you do not have an experienced sewer to bring along or a quilt shop in your area that sells supplies, read on and familiarize yourself with these products.

A Word About Sewing Baskets

If you are like me, part of your sewing dreams included a sewing basket, tastefully adorned, and practically a time machine transporting you to an era of simplicity and elegance. Unfortunately, these darling icons of homemaking are not practical. They are generally too small and are not configured to house the tools for the job. Even if you are only doing some hand sewing and want to keep a minimal amount of tools, the basket won’t be big enough to hold your project, or secure enough to keep pets or children out. If you are taking sewing out with you, a storage device that keeps your tools locked up and protected from any weather are both a must. I had a lovely sewing basket (a grandmother’s) carefully placed on the floor the the foot well of my car, but after a winding road and slamming on the brakes, I had 250 glass-head pins strewn around the car. I spent my day searching for pins with a flashlight and a magnet instead of sewing.

At the same time you create a budget and plan for purchasing/acquiring your supplies, also decide on your organizing. If you do not have a sewing machine and plan on hand sewing, maybe you could designate a sewing “chair” under a good lamp next to an endtable with storage space. If you have a machine and a place for it to stay out permanently, store your supplies there in drawer unit (either clear plastic type, or a desk or dresser.) If your sewing supplies need to be portable, try a large toolbox or bag from the hardware store. A plastic container with clip-on lids with a handle makes it easy to see inside and come in multiple sizes. A favorite place of mine for drawer dividers and tiny baskets (made for things like cosmetics) is the Dollar Tree. My main sewing toolbox is actually a miniature cleaning caddy on a table, and I have wooden racks for storing thread. Most of these items are plain, functional, “Made in China” boxes and no where near as sweet as a basket, but with your new skills and wealth of knowledge your creations will be so beautiful you will forget about the lure of the sewing basket.

Shopping List :

July 18, 2010

Is “Project Runway” the Motivation Behind Your Sewing?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 2:59 am by kdthreads

Project Runway Season Four

It is time for true confessions!  If you have watched more than 5 episodes of this favorite reality show, leave a comment!  If you are a fan of Seth Aaron Henderson, leave a comment!  If you wish Tim Gunn would pop up in your life every few hours to check on you, leave a REALLY long comment!  For those of you who don’t know what on earth I am talking about, visit http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway at your own risk.

I avoided this show for a while convinced that it was obnoxious, tacky and tasteless, but then my boys went camping for a weekend and there just happened to be a Project Runway marathon on Bravo.  I went from hating Heidi Klum to thinking she is adorable and an incredible business woman.  I had no clue Tim Gunn existed, but now “make it work” and “you need to resolve this” are part of my daily conversations.  Michael Kors was just another random store and Elle magazine was something I avoided, but now I keep Michael and Nina Garcia’s (now Fashion Director for Marie Claire instead of Elle) critical voices in the back of my head because they know their stuff! 

I would probably never wear 80% of what went down the runway in the last 7 seasons, but I can appreciate the work (or sometimes lack thereof) that goes into each challenge.  Personally, I don’t think making a garment in 24 or 48 hours is intimidating (especially with no kids running around,) I would struggle most with having to sketch, design and commit in 30 minutes then shop at Mood and purchasing everything in 30 minutes!  I have spent over 4 hours in a fabric store firming up a design, calculating yardage, choosing fabric and trying not to forget all the notions I need. 

One thing I’ve discovered about the show is the level of sewing skill impacts the competition.  Many a tasteful and prioneering designer were booted off due to poor “execution.”  Yet the designers who know how to sew but have done very little fashion designing often stick around (like Wendy Pepper or Laura Bennett) and even show as finalists at Fashion Week.  Could this be you?  Absolutely, but you will need to add some additional items to your Shopping List (see my page about assembling your tools .) 

Tools Specifically for Fashion Design:

  • At least one dressform sized for the person modeling the garments (this could be you, a friend, spouse, etc.)
  • Draping tape (the ribbon-like strips you see designers sticking to the dress form to create style lines.)
  • A full-length mirror or three full-length mirrors that can be placed in a corner for enhanced viewing.
  • Muslin and pattern-drafting paper for creating (and saving!) your patterns.
  • Curved and straight styling ruler
  • Patternmaking tools such as a tracing wheel and pattern punch.
  • Awl
  • Hand tools and hammer for applying snaps, eyelets and other hardware.
  • Fashion Design textbooks: either visit your local library, or shop online towards the end of Spring and Fall semesters for students selling their books.  Books on fashion history, fashion drawing, figure drawing, patternmaking, and a basic concepts and techniques book should get you off to a great start. 

Project Runway has a retail website which includes suggested sewing kits and other fun stuff (Prym USA is the parent company for Dritz, Omnigrid, Project Runway sewing supplies and more.)  Threads magazine has a great article on making your own dressforms here.  If you make a purchase from Fabulous Fit, you get free access to comprehensive information on designing, draping and fitting with a dressform; visit FabulousFit.com and click on “ebook.”

Note: if you just want to sew clothes from commercial patterns these items are optional.

Whether you are an aspiring Project Runway contestant, or you just want your own clothes to fit like a glove, you do not need a pricey degree from a Fashion Institute.  If you are on a budget, grab your duct tape and follow the tutorials with Threads magazine.  A video tutorial by me on how to measure for clothing is coming soon!  Thanks for reading and please subscribe.

Carry On!

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July 16, 2010

Irons: Tips, tricks and what NOT to buy.

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , at 4:59 pm by kdthreads

Every seamstress needs an iron that has the ability to steam or successfully NOT steam when you only want heat.  When my mother bought her first Rowenta iron back in 1997, I suddenly fell in love with ironing.  The generous weight pressed down on the garments with less effort, the steam shot was so powerful (it scared our Cocker Spaniel) that is could set stitches or remove wrinkles in just one pass with the iron.  It felt good to use and seemed to make ironing easier and anything that makes ironing at all enjoyable is worth every penny! 

That is the other element of Rowenta irons: pricey.  Imagine my delight when my mom made a gift basket out of a laundry basket with starch, lingerie bag, sizing, and hangers for my bridal shower, and tucked in the center was a Rowenta box!  I was thrilled to begin keeping house (or apartment) with my Mercedes-Benz of household appliances at my side. 

Well…not too long after my wedding, the Rowenta stopped working.  Around the same time, my mom’s Rowenta began spitting hot water any time it was plugged in (3 years after purchase.)  We both thought these irons would be the last we ever bought.  Somewhere in the last decade, my sister also bought and lost a Rowenta.  My mother purchased a replacement Rowenta, and it did not last long either.  You may be wondering if we are running some sort of pressing service that we are exhausting our irons so quickly, but I promise we are not! 

The iron my mother gave me was $99.99.  In our early marriage years, we did not have $100 to spend on anything, much less an iron.  When no irons showed up at the thrift store, I headed to Target where I figured I would by a Black and Decker or even some off-brand iron for $14 or so.  The cheapest iron only had one heat setting which is only useful if you are ironing nothing but linen.  Most people have a variety of fibers in their clothes, and a seamstress certainly needs a few options on her iron.  I found a Hamilton Beach for $19.99 that fit the bill; however, it was out of stock.  The next iron up was $44.99 and out of my budget.  I took a chance and asked an associate if there were any more in the stock room, but the answer was “no” since the iron was discontinued.  Aha!  I quickly haggled for a bargain on the shelf model and came out with a new iron for $10. 

The Hamilton Beach is no where near as heavy as a Rowenta, nor does it have the “power shot” steam feature, BUT I bought it 7 years ago and it is still working fine.  The moral of the story:

  • Look for an iron with at least 6 heat settings to ensure an actual variation in temperature.
  • In addition to steaming, make certain there is a way to turn this feature “off” as well.
  • A spray nozzle is a bonus, but a spray bottle can do the job.
  • If you can’t decide between two irons, choose the heavier one as it puts more weight on the fabric with less effort.
  • If you must own a Rowenta or other expensive brand, buy from QVC or any other company that backs up a product indefinitely.
  • Even if your cord swivels, buy an extension cord ($1.00) that will forever cleave to your iron.
  • Slowly invest in accessories like a tailor’s ham, sleeve board, Magic Sizing, and Steam-A-Seam to make the most use of your iron.  Buy a pressing cloth, or designate a piece of muslin. 
  • The key to efficient ironing is your ironing surface; do not settle for a wimpy little cover from Wal-Mart.  Seamlessly cover your board with as many old sheets, big towels, tablecloths, and curtains as you can manage.  Secure the layers under the board with rubber bands, safety pins or clothes pins.  The top layer can be attractive fabric of your choice!
  • Under all that padding, wrap the metal frame that makes the board in a smooth layer of tinfoil.  The foil will reflect the heat and moisture back up through the garment making the iron more powerful.
  • Keep a jug of Distilled Water or a recycled juice bottle with tap water near your iron.  No one wants to leave their iron unattended to run to the sink for water!  Keep your water in a cabinet or other dark area to prevent algae growth! 
  • Every few weeks, run white vinegar through your iron to clean any residue (of course be certain not to breathe in fumes or use your iron until all vinegar is rinsed through.)
  • Keep an old rag handy to frequently clean the iron’s surface.  You would be amazed at what happens to a white shirt when you were previously ironing black corduroy!

Do you have an iron you love?  Tell us about it in the comments section!

 


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July 3, 2010

Do you own a sewing machine?

Posted in Polls, Contests and Giveaways! tagged , , , at 11:00 pm by kdthreads

Click on the  tab in the upper right corner to tell me about your machine!

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Q & A from You!

Posted in Q & A from You!, Sewing 101 tagged , , , at 8:56 pm by kdthreads

1.) What is the difference between a handsewing needle and sewing machine needle?

2.) What are pinking shears?

3.) Do you use a thimble?

My computer is crazy and for some reason I cannot upload this video into this post. Clicking the link below should take you to my YouTube Channel where the video uploaded no problem!

Keep sending questions and please subscribe!

http://www.youtube.com/user/kdthreads#p/a/u/0/03H1XOSfkkk

http://www.softexpressions.com/software/notions/chaco.php

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