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Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Anthea Blouse in Sky Blue Linen

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

While visiting my favorite local shop, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply, one of the young women working there had on her version of this blouse. Asked the pattern name–Anthea by Anna Allen–went home and ordered it! The colors I’m wearing are Maine Summer and it is so flattering to many body types and comfortable.

Today’s blogpost takes you through making an entire blouse, which presser feet I use on my Janome (I’m a brand ambassador and compensated, but I’d say all this good stuff anyway…they rock!) m7Continental, why and offer tips and tricks for garment construction. Pretty much all Janome machines have or have available these presser feet with the possible exception of the automatic buttonhole, which many but not all of the Janome models have. Comment and let me know what more you’d like to know and what you’d like me to feature on the blog! I’m scaling back travel teaching and hope to have more time for this sort of thing.

The first thing to do is sew your side and shoulder seams. I opted for French seams for a clean, no-fraying finish. With a 5/8″ seam allowance, I sewed with the WRONG sides together at 3/8.” First press the seam as stitched (flat), then trim to a scant 1/4″ and press the seam allowance open.
Be sure to trim off the whiskers–you won’t be able to coax them inside the enclosing seam and trimming them later.is a headache.
This shows me holding the fabric with right sides together; the fabric is folded EXACTLY on the first line of stitching. You then sew 1/4″ away to enclose all the raw edges.
Sew the second part of the French Seam at 1/4″. If you’ve trimmed any stray threads/whiskers, you’ll have a beautiful clean seam. Press to one side (for my blouse I pressed to the back). Notice that the edge of the fabric/seam is on the 3/8″ line but the needle is moved right of center to be at the 1/4″ seamline.
Next, I am stabilizing the button band by using cotton voile (preshrunk) as my interfacing. Unlike the polyesters or fusible we are used to using, it provides strength without bulk and retains a soft, fluid hand to the garment. I sewed the edges in place (so the strip won’t wiggle and wad up during use). The zipper foot is one of my favorite ways to get a perfect, consistent edge: set the side of the foot on the edge of the interfacing and move the needle toward the center. Be sure it won’t hit the foot but also doesn’t ride on the very outer edge of the interfacing and chew it up. ON the left you can see stay stitching.
I’ve folded the cut-on button band to the inside and am now stitching it to the front. When I have a “lip” or folded edge and want to edge stitch, I use either the edge stitching foot (on the right, which I think of as the Ice Skate with the metal guide in the center) or the over cast foot (on the left, in use). Using a straight stitch, place the foot so the blade is snug against the fold and move the needle to make a nice, narrow topstitch. Be sure the needle won’t hit the wires in the presser foot by hand-walking the needle for one or two stitches.
Next up: applying a bias binding to enclose the seam and act as a facing on the neckline. Here I’m using what may be my favorite presser foot, the F2 appliqué foot. The wide open toes and clear visibility help me sew more carefully and precisely. This photo applies to both facing the neckline and covering the edges of the set-in sleeve seam.
Buying a GOOD quality tailor’s ham and base to hold it has been one of the best, most useful purchases of the year. After 50 years of using my mother’s horrid old ham, I’m ready to sew! Here I’m pressing the bias in place on the neckline. You can see the narrow French seam on the shoulder in the center of the photo. As I press, I am easing the bias so that it lays nice and flat. I used my seam gauge to make sure the depth is even, then edge-stitch all the way around the neck.
Once the body is complete (except for the hem), it is time to start the sleeves. Although I have sewn garments for almost (GULP) 60 years–yes I started very young–I’ve been taking an outstanding online course with Philippa Naylor, Garment Makers Question Time. The price is phenomenal for the amount of instruction you get each of the 12 months. More projects coming up! Anyway, I learned to set the gathering stitches at 1/2″ and 3/4″ and sew down the middle at 5/8″. Philippa’s way works better: sew your gathering stitches one thread into the seam allowance from the final seam line and 1/4″ closer to the raw edge. Gather, distribute the gathering appropriately, and then sew the seam just barely to the left of the left-side gathering stitch. I like using a thin bamboo skewer to coax and ease the gathers as I stitch. Again, I love that open visibility foot!

Here is a link to Philippa’s Garment Makers Question Time home page. Highly recommended!

Here is the sleeve with the seam sewn and gathers gathered. I was a tad leery that the shoulders would be too narrow, but I did the right thing and made a toile (practice garment) out of cheap cheap cheap white fabric, and the sleeve seam is indeed set in from the shoulder point–this helps the gathers get that nice rounded puff! For the hem, at the top of the next photo, I sewed a linen bias strip to the right side, turned to the inside, and hand-sewed it into place.
LOOKIT that perfect match! On the first try no less! Once the sleeves are sewn to the bodice, you’ll need to finish the raw edges. The gathers in the sleeves make it too thick for a French Seam, so I chose to use I used a bias edge finish similar to a single-fold bias binding on a quilt. On the neck, the bias was entirely folded to the inside of the garment. Here, you stitch the bias strip of fabric–a lightweight cotton lawn in lime green–to the seam, wrap it around the raw edges, then stitch in the ditch to secure it. I also managed a perfect join on the bias for the “cuff.” Note that the pattern has a wide opening for the bottom of the sleeve–way too wide for the size of my arms. I gathered it up more, making sure it still moved smoothly over/around the elbow, and just made mine narrower.
Covering up the raw edges where the sleeve joins the body. Again I’m using the zipper foot. For the way my eyes and brain work, I get the needle closest to the edge of the bias using the zipper foot and moving the needle as far right as it goes. Keep a hawk eye on your stitching because it is all too easy to wander and veer onto the bias.
Janome’s automatic buttonhole foot (available on select models including the 9450 and M7) is amazing. You set the button into the back and it picks the perfect size. You can fine tune it if the button is thick or thin. ALWAYS to a test-stitch on a scrap (using the same interfacing and number of layers). You can see I have carefully marked the center of the button holes plus the start and stop lines. The Janome foot has a metal base plate that keeps everything flat and feeding perfectly. Here’s a video of it in action!
You can subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking on the YouTube link (bottom left) and then following the subscribe button on that site, I don’t post often, but there are some useful videos there. Or just click here to go to my YouTube home page.
This is the setting I used.
Worn tucked in with a linen skirt in gray. Blouse fabric is the IL-19 5.3 oz linen from Fabrics-store.com. Skirt linen is the Driftwood Linen from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply near me in Belfast, Maine; I bought the Brumby skirt pattern there, too. Yes, they do online / mail order!
I had some leftover linen, so I made a scarf, too. I sewed a narrow zigzag on all four sides, then carefully frayed the edges. Here’s the link to the pattern again: Anthea by Anna Allen.
You can also wear the blouse out–it has a narrow 1/2″ hem.
You can even wear it to Broomstick Riding Lessons (at Alnwick Castle this summer)! Funnest photo and time ever!
And you can also wear it after you have walked from Scotland to England—all the way across a 100 foot long bridge! With my oldest son and DIL on a trip of a lifetime.

Well I can’t believe it has been half a year since I blogged… that tells you how crazy busy this summer has been. All good stuff, but all at once. I am looking forward to being HOME for three straight months once I return from Houston / International Quilt Festival where I’ll be teaching again. I will try my best to be back before the end of the year…like maybe even in a month?

Mer-Pugs Summer Shirt for Eli

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

It’s a delightful feeling when your young adult son asks you to make a shirt for him. Since he lives about 5 hours away, going to a fabric store together wasn’t a good option, so I sent him to Spoonflower. LOVE it when his sense of humor prevails: he selected Mer-Pugs! Here’s the link to the fabric; I chose to print on cotton poplin as I’m not fond of their Signature Petal cotton. Needing to order 3 yards, it was a splurge, but it turned out great and he loves it!

Eli’s shirt fits perfectly!

The pattern is Liesl & Co.’s All Day Shirt Pattern. I used this earlier when I made Joshua’s donuts shirt (yes, they both have the same sense of humor!). Since Eli is a bit bigger, I was able to use what I learned making Joshua’s shirt in 2019 (blogpost here). I still had some issues getting the collar to be the size I wanted on the collar stand–I was careful to follow the instructions, but think the collar should be about 1/8″ longer on each side. Eli did not want any pleats on the back but did want short sleeves. He lent me a shirt that fits just the way he wanted so I kept that in the studio to compare as I made the merpugs shirt …much easier to adjust that way!

Earlier this year I showed on Facebook and Instagram how perfectly I was able to align and topstitch the pocket:

First, prepare the pocket. Turn under seam allowances; pattern instructions have you sew 1/2″ from edge, then iron under concealing the stitching. I did that, but having done perfect edges before without the bother of stitching, I’ll go back to my easier way next time. I love my zipper feet for all sorts of things especially perfect edge stitching. I just get better results than using the edge-stitching foot–try several ways and use what gives YOU your best results. I align the edge of the foot with the fold of the fabric, move the needle in the distance I wish, then keep my left thumbnail on the edge of the fold and foot to keep it straight.
Next tip: GLUE STICK! Be sure to use a WASHASBLE glue stick, not permanent! Run a bit of glue along the sides and bottom.
Glue stick the pocket so you have ABSOLUTELY positively PERFECT alignment. For me, this works better than pins and you get no ripples/distortion from the pins. As with the pocket hem, use the zipper foot, adjust the needle drop to the perfect spot, and sew in place. LOOKIT how those merpugs just swim from the shirt onto the pocket!
Side and back views. Perfectly aligned the pugs from collar to yoke to shirt back! Having a machine with precision feed like the Janome M7 makes it easy!
My voice sounds funny because I am getting over a cold! Anyway, here’s a quick demo of how FAST it is to do an automatic buttonhole! Next photo shows a side view of the automatic buttonhole foot
The tip of my awl is pointing to the small button in the back of the automatic buttonhole foot. This is how the foot knows exactly how large to make the buttonhole. It even worked with the teeny tiny buttons (about 3/8″) on the collar!
What does a 20-something do as soon as one puts on a new shirt? Check the phone!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this! If you haven’t already, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter! Just look in the right-hand sidebar on this page to sign up, or at the bottom of all the other pages on my blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Drum roll! Snoopy Dance! Ready for summer!

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

I’ve posted some in progress pictures on social media, but at long last the cushions are done, and oh my what an improvement!

After wheedling a lot one year about 12-14/15 years ago, I convinced Paul to buy this “wicker” (ie extruded plastic) furniture. It came with the cushions you see below. I dislike stripes, and don’t like drab colors. I’ve wanted to replace the covers all this time, and finally last summer purchased the Sunbrella Awning fabric in the Aruba color. The Awning fabric is wider at 60″ than the regular upholstery fabric, stiffer so harder to work with it, and sheds water. It was both the width, which allowed me more efficient use of the yardage, and the ability to prevent water from getting into the cushions that led me to use this version of Sunbrella. I bought it online from a place in Florida, Outdoor Fabric Central. I used almost all of the 7 yards ($28 a yard).

This is what it looked like before. Furniture nice, fabric: definitely not my style!

Apparently I really dislike the old cushions so much it took searching in 4 years of summer photos to find a single one with the old striped cushions!

Here are the old ones on the floor in my basement studio. I used to work for an interior designer for a couple years when we lived on San Juan Island, so I learned to pattern from an existing cover and also to start from scratch. Measuring existing is easier! I knew I didn’t want the backs tufted, and knew also that I would move the zippers and do things my way.
When I opened up the seat cushions I discovered the reason they weren’t comfortable is because there was no foam, just dacron! I still need to do something with the frame–it is “strung” with elastic, and after 14 years the stretch is stretched out. I set plywood under the cushions last summer, but even with the addition of foam, I need something with more give. Will look for webbing/strapping to see what I can find that my arthritic hands can actually install and make work. I used an egg-crate foam mattress topper that Eli used to use. I’m replacing his twin with a Queen sleeper sofa for when the kids come to visit, so the topper is now cushion fodder.
With careful planning and careful cutting I had minimal waste! My trusty M7 Continental from Janome sewed through stuff like a champ! I used my antique (20+ years old) serger to overcast the inside seams. Because of the stiffness of the fabric, I chose to not do piping.
The Janome at work, the dog at rest.
My circle templates came in handy for rounding corners.
Wonder Clips (from Clover) are worth the price! I bought a pack of 50 and have used them for so many things! And of course the machine sewed like a champ! I LOVE MY JANOME! You might also wonder about the tan zipper. Well, 20 years ago I bought a roll of black and a roll of tan zipper tape and a billion pulls. Since I completely hide the zipper, no worries that it doesn’t match. This is wide and strong zipper tape as there is a lot of stress on seat cushions…the same bulky weight as sleeping bags.
Here’s the pile of nearly complete cushions.

Thanks to a suggestion from Diana Feit on FB, I cut a pool noodle in half and used that arched inside the settee back cushions to fill them out. I had already cut a 3″ wide strip from the egg crate foam, smooth side out, and then used the foam arched from one bottom corner to the other to fill that out. Worked like a charm. Also, notice those DEEP zipper plackets. The place is centered on the gusset, and there are “zipper garages”–little pockets on either end to conceal the zipper pull. These deep plackets use a bit more fabric, but they cover the zipper SO much better that I always make them. Last year about this time I did a blogpost tutorial on one of my Michael Miller Fabrics brand ambassador projects here and here. Click on those links for details on the how–the process is exactly the same.

So there we are….now all I need to do is MAKE TIME to sit on the porch (once it warms up, even with the electric throw it was kinda nippy out there two days ago, then it got colder!). But summer IS coming and I intend to enjoy some Porch Time!

D*rth V*d*r Meets the Hatchet Mask–it might just be the perfect mask!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

For months I’ve been wanting to mess around with some of the new patterns for masks in pursuit of something that is breathable, comfortable, doesn’t fog up my glasses, and lets me use fun fabric.

If you are impatient, here’s a link to the free pattern—please, it is ok to make your own, even sell in your own Etsy shop, just no mass production! And yes, the sloth fabric is totally punny!

SO, I played around yesterday and DRUM ROLL PLEASE…. I think I’ve got it! up I merged the free PDF pattern for a 7-Dart mask from DIY Craft JP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCMFxT_VdWY  with the fairly prevalent “hatchet” shaped mask—the one made of two pieces of fabric for each side that curves from the bridge of the nose to under the chin.  The seven darts create a basket shape that holds its form well which results in a fit that doesn’t touch your face and is even better (a bit) than mine if that is your goal; I used their Small/Medium size.  The drawback, besides the tiny amount of extra time sewing darts, is that the long darts on the side interrupt the pattern on the fabric.  I wanted my sloths to make people laugh.  

As you can see by my pinching, the mask extends about a half inch / 1.2 cm beyond my nose. The mask fits SMOOTHLY, without bulk!, on the sides of my face and under my chin. It would be fairly easy to modify the length to accommodate a longer/shorter face or bountiful beard. Or reduce the pattern on a copier for a smaller person.

If you forget where you saw this, you can always find the link to the PDF (along with lots of other good stuff) on my Resources page. Just google Sarah Smith Quilts or surf straight into my website, click on Resources, then scroll down to Mask: D*rth V*d*r Meets the Hatchet Mask. All those asterisks? Well, a certain movie mogul has copyrights and lawyers. But the triangular shape of the front reminds me of that black-clad villain.

Again, here’s the link to the free PDF!

Oops! Quick update: I forgot to go back and fill in the size of fabric after I fine tuned the pattern… I’ve updated the initial pattern (as of Dec. 31, 2020). You’ll need fabric about 8 x 12 inches for the outside and same for the lining. I’m clearly not one for measuring… I just got the pattern worked out, then I fold the fabric on the grain until it is big enough for the pattern to fit LOL!

Winding Ways: quilt and done!

Saturday, August 29th, 2020
Good tools (AccuQuiltGO!), good fabric (Michael Miller Fabrics), good thread (Aurifil), good machine (Janome Continental M7), and some experience, and you can do a lot! This return to my quilty roots just makes me happy!

Over the course of the year I’ve shared progress on this quilt:

  • First, there was learning to use the AccuQuiltGO! which I blogged about here. It was a different block, but the easy applies.
  • Then there is the PIECING of CURVES: see the blogpost here or go directly to the video on my YouTube Channel here.
  • Now there is the quilting video (that covers a couple other things), embedded below and share-able on my YouTube Channel here.

Full disclosure: I have proudly been a Janome Artisan since 2003, and this year am a Michael Miller Fabrics Brand Ambassador for 2020. MMF provided the fabric and we were given, as part of being a brand ambassador, an AccuQuiltGo and several dies. To my surprise I enjoyed the process so much I have purchased both the Winding Ways and Crossed Canoe dies. Stay tuned for more!

This is the die that I purchased to make the Winding Ways, which has always been one of my favorite traditional blocks. Click this link to see a blogpost of using the AccuQuiltGO (for another block, but it’s the exact same process) including a video.
I found this design somewhere on the internet and printed it out to mess around with a design for a future quilt! Stay tuned for a WANDERING Winding Ways! Using a grid like this can help you plan out fun color fades and settings.

Next came machine quilting. I worked on that a while back–I did end up teaching for the Mancuso Online Quiltfest in August and will do a Threadcoloring the Garden workshop in October! More info on that soon! In this video I’m practicing making a video, demonstrating at the machine, and it just happens to be walking foot quilting (fast! easy!) on my beloved Janome M7. Even if I had paid full price instead of being a Janome Artisan I’d rave about this machine’s wonderfulness! Their new slogan, Reliability by Design, is really true!

Then, the hand quilting and the finishing!

I haven’t done any hand stitching in a thousand years, but nearly two years ago I bought matching green thread from aurifil in piecing/light quilting weight and a heavier 12-wt that is about the size of a light perle cotton or 6-strands of floss. I LOVE IT…and it went so fast! I can remember clearly sitting on the porch in early summer, something to watch on the iPad, stitching away.

I just love how an angled shot shows the texture and dimension. I was surprised at how quickly the hand stitching went. I used the same green color of thread on the green parts for machine quilting as the green in the heavyweight Aurifil thread.

I wanted to repeat the orange batik in the center on the edges, but using it as the binding was too much. I instead inserted a tiny stitched down “reveal” that is a scant 1/8″ just inside the white binding. Can I also put in a plug for Michael Miller’s Cotton Couture solids? The quality of the base cloth is SO GOOD! And the consistency in color / dye lots over the years is really amazing. I dye fabric and know how hard it is to get perfect matches from batch to batch and it does.

Last but not least, those skinny inserts and perfect corners.

I taught the half day version of my bindings workshop at the Mancuso Online Quiltfest in June and may do so again in the new year. I am scheduled to teach and have an exhibit of my work at the Mid-Atlantic Quiltfest in Virginia in February, but at this point who knows if it will be in person or online! I promise I will teach the bindings (full or half day) again in the new year online, just need to figure out when. My students in June had GREAT results online so it works online too!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my 2020 detour back to my quilty roots. Coming soon, a new art quilt!