email Youtube

Workshops & Calendar

Archive for the ‘Garments’ Category

Irons: from tiny to dragon!

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

For a while now I’ve wanted to blog about irons, and why I love the ones I have. Yes, plural…..I have SIX! Three are “small” size, two are regular, and one is Sirius the Black Dragon. Yes, my Janome M7 sewing machine is named Albus (the second, he had a predecessor named Albus). There’s even a video at the end of this post about all these irons!

From left to right: the CHI, my beloved Panasonic Titanium Nonstick, the little mushroom style, the (SOB no longer made SOB) Clover, and Sirius, a LauraStar steam generator. I have a sixth sorta small iron, but it is too heavy/awkward for my hands and was upstairs for use steaming in the closet–not that I’ve actually ever used it for that. Sigh.

The Panasonic is my go-to iron for fusing. At 1200 watts, it gets hot and has acceptable steam, although I almost always use it as a dry iron. I love this iron so much I wore the finish off my last one! I always have one that is my working iron, and a brand new spare in the closet in case the cats or I knock it off the ironing board one time too many (studio is in the basement, cement floor…not good for falling objects). I can LITERALLY place this on Mistyfuse or other fusible web, melt it all over the bottom of the iron and WIPE IT CLEAN. No more hot iron cleaner fumes (which cannot be good to inhale–they set off smoke detectors)! For the price of four tubes of iron cleaner, you’re golden. This link takes you to the one I am currently using–I like that it has auto off because I am easily distracted. As of April 2020, it is a whopping US $27. Even if you only use it for fusing, it’s worth it!

I fuse on top of my ironing surface, but also on the design wall. Holding the iron (which is relatively light) had gotten uncomfortable because I have arthritis in my thumbs and wrists. So I tried the little mushroom iron, the ones you see in classrooms and at retreats–many folks can plug them in and not blow the fuses. It is quite comfortable to hold when used on a flat surface, but on the design wall it requires you to bend your wrist, and that hurts for me.

Here I am holding the iron on the design wall, and I have to bend at the wrist which causes discomfort. That’s why I really prefer the…SOB….not longer available Clover iron. Yeah, I’m sorry, I know that doesn’t help you very much. I haven’t included a link for the little mushroom style irons…there are a bazillion available on Amazon, at quilt shops and so on. From what I can tell they are fairly similar.
The Clover iron is ideal for the design wall. The “mug” handle rests on my fingers, and I can see my hand and forearm in a single line–as if I were wearing a brace. That means I can tap it onto the design wall as I work with no pain at all. I don’t know if there are any models similar to this style out there….If ANYONE KNOWS OF SOMETHING SIMILAR, please TELL ME! I’d love to test one out and see if I can recommend it to my students. And if anyone knows someone at Clover that we can all write and beg them to make this again, tell me that, too!
The 1200 watt Panasonic Titanium non-stick iron is on the left, the CHI 1700 watt is on the right, and that glorious fabric is Meadow color of HashDot by Michael Miller Fabrics.

For years I have recommended the Panasonic Titanium nonstick iron to students–Panasonic should give me free irons for life I’ve sold so many for them LOL! But I had (note the past tense) suggested that the gold-ish colored titanium appears to be the key. Not so much. First, my “in the closet” iron-in-waiting is a Panasonic Titanium ordered earlier this year, but is now a silvery color instead of gold-ish, but still works the same. Second, not all Titanium non stick is the same. I decided to give the CHI Titanium Ceramic, below, a try. It costs more, about $59, and has 1700 watts so lots of heat and power and good steam. It’s great for steam ironing, but not so great at the non-stick–it really doesn’t wipe clean the way the Panasonic does. Here’s what happened:

I needed to (yuk) get out the hot iron cleaner. This surface just doesn’t wipe clean well. I use Faultless Iron Off hot iron cleaner on a soft white terry towel. And look what happened: I rubbed off the finish on the gunky edge!!!!!! It’s still a good iron, and I use it, but not for fusing. It has quite a large capacity water reservoir which is good in principle, but again that pesky arthritis poses a problem: it’s heavy. That’s where Sirius the Dragon comes in. Keep reading. ANYway, if you don’t use fusibles (or even if you do) this is a good, hot iron with good steam.
The LauraStar steam generator is a grand indulgence! Please be sure you are sitting down when you see the price on this black beauty…they are expensive. But OH MY! I had been lusting after a steam generator for a long time, but (to repeat myself in a short space) they are expensive. And this is on the expensive end of expensive. But I’m sure glad I indulged–nothing beats a great tool.

The model I purchased is the same as this one (minus the soleplate cleaner, which I wish I had). The steam is IMPRESSIVE…literally, it sends out a jet about six feet….watch the video below! It comes with a cord stand (which I don’t point out in the video. There is the power cord and, wrapped in cloth, the line that powers the iron and brings the steam to it. Unlike a regular steam iron that produces steam constantly (if you set it to do so), you need to push the button, but that is easy to do given the location on the handle.

The steam cord is a bit stiff, which is why having the clamp-on cord guide is so helpful. You also get a silicone mat so you don’t have to tip the iron on end, just set it on top of the mat. That is comfortable for my arthritis. So is the light weight of the actual iron. AND you can steam things that hang, like curtains and garments!

When I have a lot of ironing (like yards of dyed fabric, or just washed fabric), the steam generator is a DREAM. Also excellent when doing a final fusing of the finished art quilt top and when blocking a quilt. Many steam generators if the tank runs dry, you have to turn it off, wait for it to cool, then add water. Not so this one–just open the lid to the easily accessed tank and add water (shown in video). BINGO! WINNER! Just be sure not to send a blast of steam in the direction of your other hand. Guess you don’t need to ask why I advise you of that. Ahem. Only did it once! If you are also a garment maker, you’ll love this. I will grant you, it is *expensive.* But in my case, worth it.

Bottom line: I use the Panasonic for all fusing. For smaller ironing jobs, I use the CHI. For working on the design wall, I use the Clover. And when I need STEAM or have a lot of ironing to do, the LauraStar. So there you have it…why I ned at least FOUR irons! What are your favorites, and why?

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.

Rockin’ Retro Apron in Kitschy Cocktails, free pattern!

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Welcome to my first Brand Ambassador project for Michael Miller Fabrics, a fun and funky Retro Apron featuring Kitschy Cocktails and Mad About Plaid in blue (available starting February 2020). For all of 2020 this will be a FREE pattern available using this link and in a link on my Resources page titled Retro Apron. The plaid fabric just grabbed my attention and demanded I use it, on the bias…total fun! In this and a subsequent blogpost or two I will share the entire pattern and the included images. But you can download and print the illustrated pattern at home.

I’ve tried to teach fine finishing details throughout. I love nice clean, finished edges, so there isn’t a raw edge in this apron…everything is tucked behind trim or finished to hide the raw edges. These techniques can be applied to all your sewing, so read on and learn! Using good fabric and my brilliant Janome M7 Continental machine made it easy to produce such a well-made garment.

Today, I’ll start with the fabric and supplies needed, cutting instructions and the first steps in the construction process. Subsequent steps will be posted over the next week, but the ENTIRE pattern is available in the Rockin’ Retro Apron PDF. Apologies for any formatting inconsistencies in the blog…it’s not wanting to play nicely with me today.

FABRIC AND MATERIALS--Preshrink all fabrics!

Close up of the Kitschy Cocktails focus print and Mad About Plaid coordinating print. I ended up going with the Jet Black instead of this vibrant orange for the accent color.

Ask your local shop to order!

FITTING NOTE:  Please read through ALL the instructions for FITTING NOTES before cutting, since you  may wish to adjust the cut sizes to better suit your build.  If you are larger or smaller than my average height and Medium-Large frame, you may wish to add a bit more  yardage.

  • Focus Fabric 1: Kitschy Cocktails, blue            1 1/4 yard 
  • Focus Fabric 2:  Mad About Plaid, blue           1 yard 
  • Accent: Cotton Couture Jet Black                      1 yard 
  • Matching thread (I used off-white and black)
  • Glue stick—washable!  A school/craft glue stick is fine.
  • Spray starch


TIP: Use sticky notes, removable file folder labels or painter’s tape to label pieces.  Check each box (on printed pattern only) as you have cut the pieces.

Focus Fabric 1 / Kitschy Cocktails: Be sure to cut pieces with the design facing the correct direction.  

Be sure to cut pieces with the design facing the correct direction.  
  • Apron skirt front: Cut ONE on fold, 15” by 40-44” (width of fabric)
  • Apron skirt sides: Cut TWO 9” wide by 15” tall
  • Apron bib:          Cut TWO 9” wide by 12 tall”, see FITTING NOTES and instructions  for shaping
  • Apron pockets:     Cut TWO 7” wide by 8” tall

Focus Fabric 2 / Plaid:

Cut on the bias:

  • Hem ruffle:         Cut THREE —  4 ½” across the full width of fabric, about 45”
  • Bib ruffle:           Cut ONE —     2 ½” by 24” long
  • Pocket trim:        Cut TWO —     1 5/8” by 9” (will be trimmed later)
  • Waistband:         Cut ONE —     1 5/8” by 30” (see FITTING NOTES above and below)
  • Long ties:            Cut TWO —     1 5/8” across the full width of fabric, about 45”
  • Neck band:         Cut ONE —     1 5/8” by  24” long (will be trimmed later)

Accent / Michael Miller Jet Black:

Cut on the straight grain before cutting bias strips:

  • Long ties:          Cut TWO —     3” by 40-45” (can be pieced if necessary;  make shorter/longer ties as desired)

Next, cut on the bias

  • 1 1/8”  strips for edging the skirt/ruffle edge, bib and outside pocket edges.  You will need a total of about 180.”  Sew strips together as you would for a quilt  binding.  I used the 1 1/8” width strips to make turning the ¼” under easier and still have enough left to cover the bulk of the gathers and finish at about 3/8 – ½” on the apron-to-ruffle seam and the front of the bib.  

Finally, cut on the straight grain:  

  • End of long ties:  Cut TWO —    1”  x 5” 
  • Waistband:        Cut ONE —   2 ½” by 30” (adjust length to match desired size, see  FITTING NOTES)
  •                         Cut ONE —   1” by 30” (ditto) for top edge of waistband
  •                         Cut ONE —    1 ¼” by 30” (ditto) for bottom edge of waistband
  • Pockets:              Cut ONE —   1 5/8” by 9” for top edge of pocket trim
  •                         Cut ONE —    ¾” by 9” for lower edge of pocket trim 

NOTE:  If you are using a print instead of a plaid or stripe, you can cut these on the cross-wise grain.  You will need a bit less yardage overall. 

NOTE:  I had enough black in my stash to cut on the lengthwise grain which is more stable.  You can just as easily cut the straight-grain pieces on the cross grain so you don’t need to buy as much fabric.

NOTE:  Seam allowances are either ¼” or 3/8.”  Please follow instructions for each section. 

NOTE:  Ties were designed to be long enough to wrap around to the front.  Depending on your measurements you may need to shorten/lengthen these ties, or you can cut them shorter and tie the bow in back.  Figure out your waist, how much you need to wrap the ties to the front and, if needed, cut additional strips of black and of plaid. 


I’ll admit it…there are a lot of steps to this apron. Lay in a supply of nibbles and remember to take breaks to re-focus your eyes and move your body!  

Due to the blog formatting, numbers for each step are omitted on the blog. In the PDF Rockin’ Retro Apron pattern, use the numbers and check off each step/number as you work along so you can find your place after a break.

Make the Apron Skirt

FITTING NOTE:  This apron was designed to be about 28-30 inches along the waistband/top edge, which wraps most of the way around my body. Decide how long you want the top gathered edge to be and adjust accordingly (this comes into play when attaching the waistband in a later step).  For those smaller than I am, just gather your skirt more or make the center panel narrower.  For those who are larger, gather less; or you may (or may not) wish to make your side panels wider.

Length:  With a ruffle that finishes at 3”, this apron skirt is about 17” long.  You may wish to adjust for your height and preferred length.  

  • Sew apron skirt side panels to center panel.  I created a mock flat-felled seam:  sew wrong sides together with a ¼” seam. 
  • Press as stitched, then press open.  
  • Trim seam allowance on side panels to 1/8” (first photo above).
  • Fold other seam allowance in half so the raw edge nearly touches the seam.  Apply glue stick to the 1/8” side.  Press down; heat from iron will set and dry the glue—way easier than pins! Second photo above.
  • From the right side, stitch seam allowances in place, above left.  I prefer to use an edge stitch or quarter-inch-piecing foot with the blade in the ditch/lower side.  Move your needle to the left so that it is towards the left side of the seam allowance.  Stitch.  See first photo above.
  • Hem lower edge of skirt ruffle.
  • Fold a piece of copy paper in half lengthwise, or use a file folder or piece of poster board.  Mark a line ¼” from the long edge.  Use this as a press guide to get a perfect ¼” turn. Second photo above.
  • Repeat so that raw edge is inside the hem.  I call this a “turn-turn” hem.  
  • Stitch, again using an edge stitch foot and moving the needle to keep the sewing line a perfect distance from the edge.      
  • For the ends, I retained the 45-degree angle and hemmed it the same way.  You could also choose to round off the corner.  Make sure the angles will curve / bend up to the gathered edge of the ruffle.
  1. Gather hem ruffle: 
    1. Mark center of ruffle on the with a pin!!!!  Do not sew over the pin!  You can put the pin on the hemmed side.
A picture containing indoor, sitting

Description automatically generated

Hem the ruffle **before** gathering. Sew basting/gathering stitches at 1/4 and 1/2″ distances from the raw edge.
  • Run two lines of basting stitches ¼” and ½” from raw edge of ruffle with bobbin thread on the wrong side of the ruffle.  If desired, loosen tension a bit to make the bobbin thread easier to pull.  
    • Holding both ends of the bobbin threads, pull to gather.  The gathers will be fairly dense, so you’ll need to stop and move the gathers towards the center periodically.  I worked the gathers from both ends.  
    • Place the ruffle along the lower edge of the apron skirt and adjust gathering so that it fits.  
    • Place a pin at either end and wind the bobbin thread tails around the pin in a figure 8 to secure them while you work.
  • Sew ruffle to skirt WRONG sides together with a 3/8” seam, photo at right. Photos below.
  • Black bias trim:  Sew cut strips together as you would for a quilt binding, using a ¼” seam allowance.  Press seams as stitched, then press seams open. 
  • Cut a length of black trim the length of the lower apron edge plus a couple inches just in case.  Press under ¼” on one edge.
  1. Sew the black trim to the seam that joined the ruffle to the skirt with a 3/8” seam allowance.  Photo at near right.  The folded edge is on the left; when you turn the bias strip toward the skirt in the next step, the fold will be on the inside of the seam. See first photo above.
  • Press the seam as stitched.  With the right side up, press the seam allowance and black bias strip toward the apron skirt. 
  • Use your glue stick and iron to “pin” the black strip in place, covering the raw edges of the skirt/ruffle. Press The ¼” seam allowance turns to the inside. See second photo above.
  • Sew the black strip.  I began using a narrow buttonhole stitch for my applique, but switched to a straight stitch which I think looks better.  Again, the edge-stitch foot or quarter-inch foot is perfect for getting precise seams and stitching lines.  Remove any visible basting/gathering thread.  Refer to second photo.

YEEEHAW! You’re made it about halfway! In the next post we will work on the ties and bib, then finish things up in a third post. Once they are all live, I’ll add the links following this paragraph.

And once again, here’s the PDF for Sarah’s Rockin’ Retro Apron, free to download in 2020. Thank you to Michael Miller Fabrics for selecting me as a Brand Ambassador for 2020 and to Janome America for having me as a Janome Artisan since 2003! Good fabric and brilliant machines make it so much easier to do a brilliant sewing project!

A donut shirt for Joshua, the M7 Continental dream

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
As soon as it came out of the box it went on…fit perfectly (thanks to borrowing one of his existing shirts!)

The first thing I made on the splendid new M7 Continental from Janome was something I haven’t made in decades: a button down tailored shirt! Anyone who knows Joshua knows that he is all about good food, perhaps starting with donuts. In fact, Joshua and Ashley’s wedding cake was a tower Joshua made of donut holes from Willow Bakery in Rockport! He also loves shirts with a sense of humor: sushi rolls, watermelon, lobsters. So I decided I wanted to make him a shirt for Christmas. And I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations in part due to the excellent sewing of the M7. There’s even a video below of making a buttonhole!

In the box ready for going under the tree, and looking professionally made if I do say so myself! The label was purchased at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver–when I was taping for The Quilt Show I had a day to play and met friend Sandra Wheeler (hullo SandyAngel!) who took me out and about. The label reads “made with love {and swear words},” which I figured correctly would make Joshua laugh.

I used the Men’s All Day Shirt Pattern from Liesl + Co patterns. It was my first time using a downloadable pattern where you print and then tape together the pieces. If you download the free Adobe Acrobat software (not just your built in PDF reader) you can turn off the “all sizes” so it prints ONLY the size or sizes you want so you don’t have to navigate all those lines that end up nearly on top of each other. By measuring Joshua’s existing shirt, I was able to figure out which size would be best (Medium) but with the Large collar/neck stand. My only issue was when I combined the sizes. I should have printed the neck line of both patterns SEPARATELY (instead of on the same sheet), then traced the size large and lined it up properly. It took a while, with astounding and much appreciated personal replies from both Liesl and her husband Todd with troubleshooting suggestions, before I figured out what I was doing wrong. Kudos for the service as well as the pattern!

Sewing down the underneath side of the front, where the buttons will go
Needle moved to the far left.
the stitched fold-back, the buttons will go on the other side.
Look at how perfect that stitching is! It sure helps to have a machine that is so precise.

Using the included edge stitch foot, I was able to get absopositively perfect stitching. The first of the four photos above shows the underneath side of the shirt opening, using the edge stitch foot to sew down the turn-under. The second image shows the Janome M7 Continental screen (other Janome machines work similarly) with the needle set to the left. Because of the tiny increments in needle placement, I could get the stitches to form the exact distance I wanted from the edge. Third photo (top right) is a detail of that stitching. And the large image is the button band, stitched. I can’t believe it looks so good! There’s a video just below these still photos.

There are a couple screens of buttonhole options, but I used the basic one. Note the QR code in the bottom left corner (more info below).
The manual explains the different purposes of the many buttonholes.
First, you can select from a wide variety of buttonholes. I went for the standard (after all, I hadn’t sewn a buttonhole in over two decades!). Using the AcuSpark app (free on the App store, works with the M7 and a few other Janome’s), you open the app on your phone/device, scan the QR code in the bottom right of the machine’s screen (photo on left). This takes you to a tutorial within the app.
As you can see from the screen shots, the tutorial walks you through the process step by step. Easy peasy…my kind of sewing!
Here’s the app telling you how to make a buttonhole!
This is what that buttonhole foot looks like in real life. You slide the button into the back, attach the foot to the machine, and it makes the perfect sized hole every time. I kid you not, I make SEVEN buttonholes, perfectly, in seven minutes, and most of that was repositioning to the next spot!
More instructions on attaching and using the special buttonholer foot.
And how to finish the buttonhole.
This Nancy Zieman (oh how I miss her!) tool from Clover is an improvement over the old-school metal one. Although I have a fondness for the metal one, this version allows you to center the ruler exactly on the button band and mark your buttonholes. The darker green slider notches into the grooves so it doesn’t slide up and down the center as you work. I wondered when I bought it why I thought I needed a newer (plastic, yuck) version. Now I know. Once again, smarter sewing.

(Alert: even geekier pattern and garment sewing paragraph!) From the pattern, I also learned a new process for sequence of sewing and attaching the collar and collar stand. Instead of sewing the stand to the neckline, inserting the collar, and closing it up where the collar meets the neck band, the pattern has you sew collar and stand together, then sew the inside of the stand to the inside of the shirt and topstitch the collar to the shirt body. Ended up with absolute precision and perfection!!!!!!

LOOKIT how perfect that turned out! The only thing I would change on the next one (and yes there will be more for both sons) is to use a slightly less crisp interfacing so the collar stand holds up but isn’t quite so stiff.

So, with 50 years of sewing experience (albeit minimal garment making in the past three decades), an excellent pattern that taught this greying sew-ist a couple new things, and the incredible precision of the Janome M7 Continental machine, I am a seriously happy camper. Even better, Joshua loves his shirt!