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Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Dealing with the achy parts…a quick project

Friday, March 20th, 2020
Sarah Ann Smith's easy peasy arm support

How to deal with aches, be thrifty and creative

So in January I was diagnosed with bursitis in my right elbow. Seemingly overnight a big bubble popped up on the outside of the elbow–like half a golf ball big. ( I hear my father saying Keep your elbows off the table! Remember that?) It didn’t really hurt, but if I leaned on the table it was annoying. For a long while I used an empty squeeze bottle (one I use for dyeing). I had first brought it up to support my wrists at the computer instead of buying an expensive do-dad for such purpose. I realized I could use the bottle to elevate my forearm so I could sit at the table as I always do, lean on my arms, but not aggravate the bubble (by the way, two months later it is pretty much finally gone). But the cat kept stealing the bottle as a toy.

I remembered those wrist supports they sell and thought “I’ll bet I could make something.” So, I did. For a whopping $1.99 for a length of foam pipe insulation (I used the kind for 1/2″ diameter copper pipe, the one with the smallest hole in the center) and scraps of cloth, fusible and batting. Here’s what and how I did it, and what I’d do differently.

I measured how long I wanted the foam support to be, then cut a batting scrap (ya know those long skinny ones you can’t quite toss?) to fit around plus 1-1 1/2″ extra on the circumference, plus an extra 1 1/2″ on either end. Next, open up the sliced bit. Then, I used some, um…., “vintage” Aleene’s tacky glue, which meant I needed to spread it since it wouldn’t pour. Ahem.

I tucked the batting inside the slot, then filled in the hole in the center with remnants trimmed for extra pipe insulation. If I leaned on the tube, it sorta collapsed, so I just stuffed it. Do NOT glue this bit! You may opt to tuck things in.

THIS IS WHERE I’D DO IT DIFFERENT:
Next time, I think I would fuse the fabric to the batting first rather than later because the outside isn’t quite as smooth as I could like.

I refused my fabric (cheerful!) and fused it to the roll. If I were to make another, I’d fuse it to the batting first. I added the batting because I thought trying to fuse directly to the foam would not be successful–melted foam? No thanks.

I used a wave/pinking blade to trim the exposed edge of the fabric, overlapped the edges and fused together. Next time (if there is one), I would tuck the ends into the slice, then glue it shut.

For the ends, I snipped the excess at the ends to 1/4″ away from the foam pipe. I worked my way around from the underneath edge to the overlap edge of the fabric, fusing as I went. By not cutting to the outside edge I got a neat fold that won’t ravel.

Just place your iron on the end and fuse as you work your way around. When it’s all down, hold the iron on the end for a bit extra to get it to really stick.

PS: Best fusible in the world: MISTYFUSE. Hands down. The Best!

And here’s my end.

Using the roll as a support for my forearms, which keeps my wrists straight and not bent (since the arthritis in the wrists acts up when bent).

How I spend way too much of my life…at the laptop! Business and friends and internet happen!

Hope this mini tutorial will help you or someone you know. Thanks for reading!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 2 of 2)

Thursday, March 12th, 2020
Today it’s time for part 2 of 2 in the “how to make cushions” tutorial! In this image, I’ve sewn the boxing strip–the bit on the edges/sides (black Galaxy fabric from Michael Miller Fabrics, Spring 2020) to one of the squares (top and bottom) to make sure I’ve got the fit right. Looks pretty good! The top on this one is the SuperFred fabric in gray (with this fun fox named Fred and a robot named Mike). Those glorious solids (SWOON) are part of the Cotton Couture collection. Colors are Acid (left), Yellow (top), Apricot (right), and Lilypad (bottom). Like I said, SWOON!

In my last post, we went through my deep-placket zipper construction that I use for home dec use. Sturdy and classy. You can find the free PDF pattern with gobs of photos here at Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. And here’s a link to the first post. And close up views of all the pillows are at the end of this post.

I shared this photo before, but didn’t point out the very hard to see black strapping handle which is in the center of the side facing us. If you look at the pop-socket on the ruler, come down to the cloth. Then look and you’ll see two Space Aliens, fussy cut from that fabric, at the ends.
My dear DIL is a kindergarten teacher, and these cushions and pillows are headed to her classroom for wee people to flop upon and read. Or just flop upon! She’ll need to be able to move them about easily. As she is TINY, we need to make this easy (not a bear hug thing just to move a pillow). I cut some of the Space Pals fabric into rectangles, centering one of the Pals so it would show. Sew the rectangle to the end of some webbing. I could only find 1 1/2″ wide locally in rural Maine. It works but I think 1″ wide would be better if you can find it. Sew the rectangle to the end of the webbing, then fold and press the side edges in, turn under the remaining raw edge, and sew. I use–get ready for this–washable glue stick instead of pins. When doing your folding and pressing, use a swipe of glue. Presto. Stays put. When you fold things together into a nice little package, a little dab of glue will do ya! (Who else remembers Dippity Do?) Center the handle exactly over the zipper and sew. I put some squares of old denim on the inside to reinforce the fabric. See next photo.
Next step: sew the boxing to one side. Start by finding the center of the zipper. Here, you can see those rectangles of denim (with overcast stitch to prevent raveling) I used to reinforce the handle which is on the right side of the fabric. Mark 12″ to the right and to the left of the zipper’s exact center. Then measure 24″ to mark the other corners on the boxing strip. I chose to put some reinforcing stitching (triple straight stitch–see below) at each corner–about an inch to either side of th marking pin. I sewed about 3/8″ from the edge. If your overall gusset/boxing length is a little off, you may need to remove the stitching for one of the zipper garages and adjust the overall circumference of the boxing strip/gusset so it is snug.

Put the boxing strip (now a loop) on the cushion inside out. It’s much easier to assemble and pin with the fabric held upright (and not floppy on the table)! Place the top fabric face down. If you use a print that is directional, as I did, I put the top of their heads on the zipper side of the cushion. Pin all the way around.

You’ll want to clip each corner about 3/8″–so to the reinforcing stitching / almost to the very seamline in each corner. I clip right before stitching.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch when I need a strong seam with some flex. This is on my Janome M7 Continental, but almost all machines other than straight-stitch only have something similar. This is what I used to reinforce the corners AND sew the seams. Since the corners are clipped, this provides a little insurance against tears, especially in the cushion stuffing/wrestling stage. Or when anticipating wee people thumping their little bodies all over the place.
With the top of the cushion on the bottom and the boxing/gusset on top, sew together with a 1/2″ seam. I sewed this with the triple straight stitch, again because I expect these cushions to see some enthusiastic use in a classroom. Sturdy is wise. Sew RIGHT UP to the CORNER and stop with the needle down. You can see some of the reinforcing stitching just to the left of the needle. You can also see that clipping has allowed the boxing strip to make a 90 degree turn at the corner, and that a bit of the boxing has folded over and is pushing into the next side to be stitched.
With the needle still DOWN, lift the presser foot. Ease the boxing to the left to remove that little pushed bit you see in the photo above. Notice the reinforcing stitching that goes down to the pin. I will sew on or just a thread’s width to the left of that when I sew the seam. Make sure the raw edges are aligned–you’ll see a perfect little square of the fabric on the bottom as the boxing strip pivots around the corner/needle. Sew the next side.
And here we are, corner turned, ready to roll. Or sew. Or have a something rewarding. Wine? Pina Colada? Nap? Chocolate?
Anyway, Repeat until you have reached where you began!

Then do it again with the other side. REMEMBER to leave the ZIPPER OPEN just enough to reach your arm inside. Makes turning the cushion right side out a whole lot easier. Ahem. Yeah, didn’t do that when I first began working for that interior designer. I was able to fiddle the zipper pull and get it open. Trust me, gap is better.
OMG–almost done!!!!! Most furniture cushions are foam wrapped with dacron (outdoor cushions are the exception). There are different grades of foam. Softer ones are generally used for seat backs, firmer foam for seat cushions. There is even this miraculous “outdoor” flow-through foam–instead of being sponge-like and holding water, it drains out. The foam is kinda very firm, but think about it…no mildew! Anyway…back to this program. Upholsterers then use a spray glue to adhere the Dacron wrap (like quilt batting but fluffier, scratchier, cheaper I think, I had leftover, only partly mouse-munched in the shed). I had a vintage can of the spray upholsterers use but I think an artist’s spray glue **might maybe** work–check the label to see if it says anything about eating/eroding foam. And test. You can also just hand baste the edges. When using spray glue, I just spray the surface, pat the one huge, long and wide-enough-to-cover-the-edges Dacron in place and then trim it to the edges.

Next: Stuffing the cushion cover you just lovingly made. In the above photo, notice that I have used a dry cleaner bag (a big leaf bag works too) that I wrapped around the bottom of the cushion to facilitate wrestling it into the cushion cover. Do NOT put the cushion inside the bag–wrap plastic-something around the bottom. You need to be able to remove the plastic bag easily, and trying to tear a bag off the innards while stuffed inside the cover is not workable.
By having zippers that come halfway around the sides of the cushion, you have made this part–stuffing–a whole LOT easier. Place the cushion inside like you are putting a pillow inside a pillowcase. Then place the cushion on the floor, using your legs to hold it upright. Smooth and pull the cushion up the sides. Pull the plastic out, then slide your arm inside and coax the seam allowances toward to boxing on all sides. Tuck the corners of the foam on the top edge under the zipper, and zip closed . See next photo.
Here I’ve got the cushion on its side…see the zipper garage on the left? Use one hand to squish the foam/dacron down, and pull the zipper up over your hand (prevents getting dacron in the zipper). Slide your hand back, repeat. When you get to the corner, nudge the innards into the corners and continue until done. Park the zipper pull in the zipper garage on the other end. You may wish to fine tune where the seams are–straighten them, etc. Wearing quilting gloves or rubbery kitchen gloves gives your fingers a bit of grip and allows you to ease the fabric into perfect position.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!!!

Ta DAAAAA! DONE! Celebrate! Feel a bit chuffed (great Aussie word meaning proud or pleased).
The Space Pals in Gray side of the cushion. I put a different feature print on each side, so the kids can have Super Fred up on both cushions, or Space Aliens (next image), or one of each. Notice on the top of this one that black ripple? That’s the carry handle so the kids and DIL can tidy up! AND these cushions stand up on their edges, better for stashing in a crowded classroom. And yes, that’s my one and only (so far, I hope for another) magazine cover behind the love seat..my pink peony on Germany’s Patchwork magazine.
Are those Space Pals in Black not the cutest things ever? I think some pillows made in their image need to happen…
Close up of the Space Pals toss pillow. I got my pillow inserts from (Sigh…I go there sometimes…no one else within an hour’s drive has some of what they carry) WalMart for cheap.
And Super Fred in gray. Adorable. Although I think we need some gender equality…It’s gonna be Super Freddie, short for Frederica! for me.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. I know these have been long and detailed posts, but sometimes when you’re essentially teaching a day-long workshop in two blogposts, that happens! I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed the visit. THANK YOU!

Ask for it at your local shop!

And one last time… here’s the link to the free PDF pattern!

Rockin’ Retro Apron, Part 3

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Today we’ll wrap up the last steps in this fun apron. Get ready to make a Kitschy Cocktail wearing the cutest apron ever to cover a frock. Enjoy a nice sip, preferably with a little paper umbrella! Make mine a pina colada, please!
For the blogpost for Part 1 of this pattern, click here.
For the blogpost for Part 2 of this pattern, click here.
To download a Free-in-2020 PDF pattern with ALL the instructions and images, click here.

The Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Couture by #MichaelMiller Fabrics. The fabric was provided as part of the Michael Miller Brand Ambassador 2020 program, and my brilliant Janome M7 Continental is provided to me as a Janome Artisan. Thank you!

Sew the waistband and finish neckband

  • Administer chocolate or wine as needed—you’re near the end!
  • Sew 1” strips of black to each side of the starched plaid waistband piece.  Press seam as stitched, then press seams away from plaid.  On top edge, wrap fabric around to the back and press.  See photos below.  

FITTING NOTE:  this is where you get to alter the size to fit you.  I wanted my apron to come around my hips to the back.  This is your apron, so make yours the way you like best!  It can come just to your sides, be almost all on the front, or wrap well around you.  I’m messy, so far around was my choice!

  • Sandwich the lower edge of the bib between the back and front of the waistbands.  Optional:  baste the bib to the center of the solid black waistband (back side).  Photo below.
  • Pin the plaid waistband front and sew.  In the third photo below, I aligned the right side of the presser foot with the edge of the seam and positioned my needle just below the seam edges.
After making the center waistband (plaid edged on both long sides with black) sew the waistband front and waistband back together, sandwiching the bib in the center.
Close up of waistband/bib.
Use your presser foot and move the needle to get perfect placement for the seam. The Janome M7 Continental and many of their other fine machines give you a wide range of needle-drop positions which makes perfect alignment easy peasy!
  • Press seam as stitched, then press all fabrics away from the bib portion. Photo below.
Press seams as stitched, then press the front and back waistbands down.
Next, you pin the black back waistband to the skirt and sew with a 3/8″ seam.
  • Pin apron skirt to black portion of waistband, wrong side of apron to the right side of the black leaving ½” extra on each end (see step 43).  Distribute gathers as desired/evenly.  You can use the tip of a pin to scrape the gathers into place, photo below right.  Sew.
Use the tip of a strong pin to help adjust the positioning of the gathers. For me a pin works better than fingers or stiletto.
  • Sew apron skirt to black waistband back with a 3/8” seam.  Use the pin to prevent tucks from forming as you stitch.  You may wish to decrease the presser foot pressure so the bulk travels more smoothly under the presser foot.  Remember to change it back when done.  
I cannot tell you HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS MACHINE. All the Janome machines I’ve sewn on have been really good, and I keep thinking they can’t get better but they do. But this M7 is just a whole ‘nother world. Color me in love! Here, I’m using a simple zigzag to seal the seam edge together. Even though it will be fully encased within the waistband, stitching like this controls the bulk and makes it look better once all is said and stitched.
  • Check to make sure you like the way it looks, then zigzag the edges, see right photo above.  This will make the next two steps easier. 
Fold under the extra 1/2″ on either end of the waistband.
Tuck the tie inside the waistband, then line up the black edging as close to perfectly as you can.
  • Fold in the ½” extension on the waistband upper photo above. Tuck the square end of the waist band ties into either end of the waistband, lower photo above.  Fold the waistband front over the seam you just stitched, being sure to cover the seam line. As best you can, get the skinny bits of black on the waistband and ties to line up.
  • Stitch on the edge of the black waistband front to secure the waistband to the top of the apron.
  • Stitch in the ditch or on the edge of the black of the waistband as well as along the ends where you tucked in the ties.
  • Tie the apron to your waist.  With the unfinished end of the strap behind the bib, adjust the length of the neck strap to suit you.  If it is long enough to pull over your head easily, trim with about an inch of extra length.  Tuck the ends in and stitch closed.  Pin the strap to the bib at the desired spot and machine stitch in the ditch next to the black trim near the top ruffle.  If it’s awkward to pull on and off, use Velcro or snaps instead
  • HALLELUJAH you’re DONE!   Put it on, wear it with gusto!  Grab some bubbly or mix yourself a Kitschy Cocktail and celebrate a party apron made with the finest of details and finishing—not a raw edge to be seen anywhere.  (And if need be, give it a wash or wipe to remove any visible glue stick—it’ll come out in the wash.)

THANK YOU for following along this intricate project.  Yes, you could have overcast edges and make it faster, but this way you’ve learned some fine finishing techniques to apply to garment and home dec sewing AND made yourself a Rockin’ Retro Apron!  

And of course, Thank you to Michael Miller Fabrics for selecting me as a 2020 Brand Ambassador and to Janome America for having me as a Janome Artisan since 2003. I am honored, humbled and grateful for your support.  

And just in case, here is the link to download the pdf on more time for the Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Cocktails!

Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Cocktails, Part 2

Friday, February 21st, 2020

For Part 1, go here.

Today we’ll continue constructing your fun and funky Rockin’ Retro Apron. Fabric requirements, layout/cutting instructions and making the apron skirt are all in Part 1, here. You can download a formatted and numbered pattern–free in 2020!–with ALL the instructions and requirements at Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Couture. The fabric was provided as part of the Michael Miller Brand Ambassador 2020 program, and my brilliant Janome M7 Continental is provided to me as a Janome Artisan. Thank you!

Make the Apron Ties and Neck Strap

  • Spray starch the bias-cut plaid for the ties and neck strap.  Stiffening this fabric slightly will make the following steps less fiddly.
  • Sew an inch-wide strip of black to the short pointy end of each of the waist ties. Press as stitched, then press seam allowances toward the black.
  • Sew the plaid to the black apron ties and neck strap only.  Do not sew the waist portion, which is handled differently.  
  • Press as stitched.  Press seam allowances toward the black. Turn straps/ties right side out.  You can use a narrow pole/stick/curtain rod to make this easier:  turn the first couple inches by hand, then slide onto the top of the curtain rod and gently coax the entire strap until it is all right side out. 
  • Press, centering the plaid and coaxing the seam allowances toward the black.  Because the black is cut wider than the plaid, it wraps to the front to create an accent edge.  The seam allowances should be underneath this accent edge.  Leave the square end open.  On the pointy end, trim to 5/8” from where the short black piece is stitched to the plaid.  Turn under about 3/8” and press.  You can machine or hand stitch this opening. 
  • Stitch on the edge of the black or in the ditch so the seam allowances stay where they are supposed to.  This will help a lot once you start wearing and washing it—worth the extra effort.!

Make the Apron Bib

FITTING NOTE:  Because of different body types, you will want to adjust the width of the bib and the  length of the bib and strap to flatter your body.  Cutting measurements are for my medium-sized build.  I actually wish I had made the bib an inch shorter, so those with an average or larger bust size should be fine.  Measure before you cut and before you sew.

Use something like a mug lid to round the upper corners of the bib.
Trim slivers off the bottom edge of the bib (optional). This photo is of the pocket, where you do the same thing.
  • Use something round to curve the top edges of the apron bib, see first photo above.  I used the lid of my travel mug.  Just draw a line around the curved edge, then trim off on both sides of the bib, second photo.
  • Optional:  taper the lower edge of the bib by trimming two skinny triangles off the lower edges. Mine were about 3/8” wide by just under 6” tall, center and right photos.
  • Gather bib ruffle.  Fold fabric in half, wrong sides together.  Sew basting lines at ¼” and ½” and gather as before.  This will be a very tight gather, which helps the ruffle stand upright.  If yours is too long when gathered to your preference, trim as needed—see next steps. 
  • Pin ruffle to the bib lining (inside piece). See photos below.                                                                  
  • Curve the ends of the strip up, see second and third photos, below. Be careful (if this sort of thing bugs you) to make sure the curved ends are symmetrical.  Ahem—guess which one I am.
  • Tuck one end of the neck strap between the ruffle and the bib lining, photo on right below.  Be sure the plaid side of the strap is as pictured so that it will face the correct direction when the bib is completed.
  • BASTE by machine.  
  • Turn up to make sure it looks good.  Adjust if needed, especially on the ends.  
Curve the end of the gathered bib ruffle up–see the overall photo at the start of the post to guide you.
The top of the bib lining will look like this once you have basted the ruffle in place. Don’t be like me…remember to tuck in the neck strap so you don’t have to pick out some stitches. Ahem. See next photo.
Insert the neck strap as pictured and baste along with the ruffle.
  • Prepare front of bib.  
    • Cut black bias the length of the outside edge of the front bib plus 1” just in case.
    • Press ¼” under along one long edge.  
    • Pin to the right side of the bib front with the fold edge turning under towards the center of the bib.  
    • Baste on outside edge.
    • Press towards the center, easing excess in the rounded corners.
    • Applique/stitch the black trim to the bib.  I used glue stick to “pin” the black in place and sewed used the edge-stitch foot/quarter inch foot with the flange and a straight stitch.  
  • Pin bib front and bib lining right sides together.  Sew 3/8” seam.  You may wish to sew a basting stitch seam first to make sure everything at the top is correctly placed and the corners and ruffle turn nicely.  If you do, adjust as necessary, then sew the final seam.

Prepare the Pockets

You’ll need a wider black band, the plaid strip, and a narrower black band. These strips are sewn together, then sew the right side of the strip to the wrong side of the pocket top. Press, then fold the strip to the front and topstitch in place.
  • Create plaid-and-black band for the pockets.  
  • Sew a ¾” strip of black (straight of grain) to bottom edge of starched plaid strip.  Upper photo.
  • Sew a 1 1/8” strip of black to the top of the pocket.  Upper photo.
  • Sew wide black strip to the back of the pocket with a ¼” seam.  Press as stitched, then wrap the strip around the seam allowance.
Wrap the strip to the front, trim, and stitch in place.
  • Wrap the bias unit to the front and applique in place.  Stitch in the ditch or on the edge of the black.  Photo above.
Pockets are positioned 6″ to either side of the center, but the black edging has not yet been applied.
  • Press under ¼” on long side of 1 1/8” bias black edging that is long enough to go around the pocket. and extend about ¼” beyond the top edge.  If making two pockets, repeat. Turn under top edge of black trim even with top edge of plaid section.

And that’s it for today! In the final post we will manage the waistband–it took some mental gymnastics to figure out the easiest way to encase all raw edges, have long ties, and have it look good, but I figured it out. Stay tuned!

Remember, you can download the complete Rockin’ Retro Apron pattern here. It’s also listed under Tutorials (lotsa good free stuff on there) on my Resources page.

When to pre-shrink!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Over the past week to two weeks, I have been working on ….sit down and prepare yourselves for this… a **pieced** quilt. Yes, me. A very simple pieced quilt, but nonetheless.

Eye-candy…my 214 colors, test-driving super wide borders with possible squares or rectangles. I’m going with nothing to distract from that glorious grid of color. Hopefully the quilting will make the wide borders look good. Want them that big so they will fit on a king size bed–we’ve got a queen but the pug takes up a ridiculous amount of room for such a small dog! The center is 72″ and overall I’m hoping for about 100″ square.

I’ve also been experimenting with the AccuQuiltGO! that was given to this year’s crop of Michael Miller Fabrics Brand Ambassadors. To my distress my block was not perfect–too small! I KNEW it had to be something on my end (it was), so I triple checked my seams (perfect to scant). I checked the size of the fabric cut on the dies: perfect. I checked that I used the correct dies: I did. Then I noticed something. After ironing, the block seemed off. Look at what I discovered:

First I placed my half square triangles on the dies, and look how much smaller the pieces are after sewing and ironing! So then I checked the start of the square-in-a-square center of the block. Same thing: after steam ironing/pressing, a unit that finishes at 2″ and one that finishes at 3 1/4″ are each 1/16-1/8″ smaller!

I decided to get a bit more scientific about it: Cut, measure, dry iron, measure, steam iron, measure. Here is what happened with the Cotton Couture, a delightful solid with a glorious feel in the hand:

Batiks are made using hand-dyeing processes that include a resist being applied (usually wax of some sort), then the wax is washed out, more dye applied, and so on. This means some of the shrinkage should already have happened.

As cut with the AccuQuiltGO! Perfect 4 1/2″
One last image: Here I created the center square-in-a-square for a pieced block. I cut the purple fabric to 4 1/2″ thinking that might help my accuracy, and sewed on two half square triangles. I then used navy for the central square and piled on identical half square triangles. All are cut with the lengthwise grain as suggested by Accuquilt for accuracy. LOOK at how much smaller due to more pressing and moisture from the iron. ERK!

So my lesson is, when I am not fusing things up, I really need to either pre-steam-iron everything, or prewash and mostly-dry it and then iron dry and smooth. I can now use the perfection of the AccuquiltGO and actually achieve as close to perfect as I will ever get! Now, off to order backing fabric for my BIG quilt.