Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re a little bored. You’d love to work on a sewing project, but you’re also in between projects. You don’t have any events coming up and you don’t have the urge to create something new for your wardrobe, or anyone else’s. I call this a sewing lull. In my freelance writing and book writing careers, I sometimes experience the same thing. Over the years, I’ve found some techniques to get through those lull periods without going stir crazy from boredom.

Go Back to Your Joy

Go Back to Your Joy

Why did you start sewing in the first place? Was it to make something specific or was it simply because it was a skill you wanted to learn? Think about what gives you the most joy when you sew. For me, it’s one of two things: either wearing something I’ve made and getting complimented on it or giving something I made to someone and seeing their joy. Tap into what you love about sewing. Then…

Expand Your Repertoire

If you’re like me, you usually have a few favorite things to make. Use your sewing lull to expand your repertoire. If you usually make clothes, try making a stuff toy or blanket. Maybe go really big and learn a completely different sewing skill, like quilting or embroidery. As long as it taps into the reason(s) you started sewing, love sewing, in the first place, you’ll have a winner.

Run with Scissors

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really do this. It’s dangerous. What I mean is step outside your comfort zone, disregard what usually holds you back and leap into a new sewing skill, project or technique without taking time to talk yourself out of it. Maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to try for years, but your pragmatic side has been holding you back. This sewing lull is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

I find these three things get me through any lull, sewing or writing, and I learn some new things along the way. At the same time, it also helps me reconnect with why I love what I do – we all need that reminder sometimes, right.

Sewing Super Power: Stereoscopic Vision

Sewing Super Power: Stereoscopic Vision

Are you one of those people who knows what an inch looks like without measuring?

I am. I also know what a ½ inch looks like and two inches and, well, honestly, most units of measurement from an 1/8 of an inch to about eight or ten feet.

I can also look at a photo of someone and determine how many inches shorter (or longer) his or her pant, shirt, jacket, or dress hem needs to be. And I can take a picture or drawing of a garment and recreate it with only that image as a reference.

I bet a lot of people reading this blog can do these things too.

I never thought too much about the why. It was just something I was always good at.

3D vision – no Oculus Rift needed

3D vision - no Oculus Rift needed

3D vision – no Oculus Rift needed

Well, this past week, a new scientific study was published at the University of California at Berkeley about how dressmakers were found to have “needle sharp” 3D vision.

3D vision is also referred to as stereoscopic vision, which is the ability of the brain to take 2D information and translate it into 3D. Depth perception is part of this equation, meaning stereoscopic vision is what allows us to thread needles, catch balls, and park cars (among a myriad of other things.)

It also means that some of us, those with especially keen stereoscopic vision abilities, are able to look at the distance between things and immediately calculate a correct (and often freakishly accurate) measurement.

There have been countless occasions when I’ve looked at a fitting photo of an actor with a hem pinned up and said, “Oh, I need to shorten that an inch and ½,” (or whatever) and someone else has said, “Let’s measure to make sure.”

And so we do. And I’m always exactly right.

In the same way, I can often walk into a fitting room – or even just watch someone wander by – and say, “That needs to be lengthened ¾” and the waist taken in an inch.”

And then I do the alterations without pinning and its correct.

Batman’s got nothing on me

Batman's got nothing on me.

Batman’s got nothing on me.

I’ve always just thought of it as one of my super powers. I believe everyone has a couple or three superpowers. The trick, sometimes, though, is figuring out what they are.

Adrien Chopin, the neuroscience researcher who conducted the 3D vision study, says that they’re still trying to figure out if tailoring and sewing sharpens stereoscopic vision or, if tailors and the like are drawn to the profession because of their enhanced “stereo-acuity”.

I’m definitely not a scientific researcher but I think it’s both of these things. My brain has always been adept at moving between the 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional worlds. I just never knew it had a specific name. And because I use this ability many times a day, I’ve become better and better at it to the point where my accuracy percentage is probably 99.9999999%.

Or something like that

I can also go from 3D to 2D quite easily, meaning I can look at a 3 dimensional object, like a garment (on or off a person) and know what shape it would be as a flat 2 dimensional pattern.

Chopin’s study goes on to say that people like surgeons and dentists have normally been assumed to have superior stereovision but that dressmakers and tailors in general had even more precise 3D vision abilities that those in the medical fields.

Kind of crazy, huh?

Take care to use your powers for good.

Take care to use your powers for good.

Chopin intends to study more extensively the stereoscopic superpowers of dressmakers. He says that a better understanding of the ability will help in efforts to train those with visual impairments like “lazy eye” to strengthen their 3D vision. He also believes that improved stereoscopic vision could be tantamount in training people in occupations that require precise hand-eye coordination like military fighters or athletes.

On the other end of the spectrum, some vision scientists think that painters often have poorer stereovision which is what gives them an advantage when working in a 2 dimensional world. Rembrandt, the 17th century Dutch painter, is thought to have suffered from stereo blindness.

I find all this quite fascinating. If you do to and want to read more in depth information about the study, you can see the whole report here.

And don’t forget to spend some time celebrating your own super powers, which, if you’re a tailor or seamstress, very likely include stereoscopic vision. Yay us!

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

I can’t recall the first time I heard the phrase, “June bride,” but it’s something that’s stuck in my mind as the years have passed. While, to me, other months might present better options for a wedding (Sue me! I don’t like 90-degree weather!), June has somehow become what could arguably be the staple month for wedding ceremonies. Since we’ve entered that month, it seems fitting to target those ceremonies for a post or two. For this particular one, we’ll focus on a tiny wedding detail that can be handmade for that extra bit of sentimental value, and that’s the ring bearer pillow.

The ring bearer's pillow.

The ring bearer’s pillow.

For instructions on how to make a throw pillow in general, you can check out this link. But because pillows can be treated as such simple projects, I won’t discuss how to construct the actual pillow. Instead, I’ll concentrate on more decorative details in regard to the pillow’s appearance. These are aspects of the pillow that could come into play while you’re selecting fabrics and such—little concepts that you can do to construct something that stands out for your big day!

Choose your fabric wisely

The most important thing to consider for your ring bearer pillow is your fabric choice, and the most obvious option would fabric that has a bright white look to it. This matches the bride’s ensemble and showcases the brightness of the day, but if you want to go with something less traditional for your wedding, you might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

For instance, I adore fairies in fiction and movies. If I were to have some kind of fairy garden theme to a wedding, it might make sense to use fabric options that are more creatively colored than basic white. Maybe a pale blue or a light green would work, or perhaps even a combination. It’s worth considering, overall, how your theme and wedding colors could be represented in the pillow for a unique look.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Time to accessorize!

You might also want to consider accessories for the ring bearer pillow, and I don’t just mean the rings that will be carried on it! Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle. Again, you can go with the basic white, or you can better pair the accessories’ hues with your theme or wedding colors if doing so feels like the right option.

Not only can these accessory decisions make your ring bearer pillow stand out that much more, but they can also be used as ways to fix technical errors. If you sew lace around the ends of the pillow, as an example, you might find that a spot where your stitches weren’t that fantastic on the actual pillow can be covered by the lace. If you accidentally punch a smaller hole on the top of the fabric, you can make sure that ribbon you have meeting in the middle to create a bow covers the error. Essentially, while prettying up your ring bearer pillow with visual elements, you could improve its appearance as well by making your mistakes less visually obvious!

And in regard to those accessories, don’t limit your options to fabrics either! Sometimes the smallest trinkets and gems can push a normal-level work into more amazing territory, and things like gems speckled around your ring bearer pillow or a pin that looks like a heart can create a simple elegance that adds a level of sophistication to the project. Another similar idea would be to use sequins that could catch the light of the event and shimmer to again mimic the brightness of the ceremony. Each of these embellishments are options that, if used in the right amounts and ways, could lead to a ring bearer pillow worth talking about at the reception!

Structure is key

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow - maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow –
maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Keep in mind that even the construction of the pillow could highlight a particular quality that you want to embrace in your wedding if you’re going for something more modern and less traditional. Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow—maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape—as well as the face of the pillow itself. Instead of thinking, “How can I decorate this simple pillow,” you could make the top of the pillow its own design that doesn’t need any décor at all because the design is the décor—like a large flower, made of fabric, that covers the top. These decisions are structural elements that could create the unique, one-of-a-kind ring bearer pillow that you’re searching for to spice up your wedding!

So to give a sentimental touch to your wedding, turn this traditional addition to the ceremony into something homemade, unique, and fitting! It could add a splash of perfection to an already perfect day!

How to Sew Buttonholes

How to Sew Buttonholes

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes?

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes?

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes? If you have, I don’t blame you, they used to freak me out too. I had a friend once who lightly scoffed at how averse I was to learning how to sew them. “They’re easy!” she admonished me and I tucked that away and kept reminding myself that they were easy.

What type do you need?

Finally, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on. It was time to learn.

I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on.

I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on.

My machine has seven different buttonhole options. I read the manual and I watched a lot of how-to videos before I determined the hole I wanted to use for this project. This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter. You can read about it here.

This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter.

This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter.

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds. Once I figured out how to use my buttonhole foot, truly I was unstoppable, and now I am the friend who can gently laugh and say, ‘buttonholes? They’re easy!’

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds.

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds.

Use a buttonhole foot

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment. It is the long, weirdly shaped one.

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment.

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment.

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project. It is there to sew the buttonhole to the correct size that the button can fit through. Genius, eh?

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project.

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project.

Your sewing machine manual is your friend

At first, you’re going to need your manual, or a really great how-to video. Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use. Pay careful attention to the Application portion. Is your fabric knit? Stretchy? Heavyweight?

Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use.

Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use.

Practice, practice, practice

Before you try a buttonhole for the first time, make sure you practice first! Don’t let your precious project be your battleground. Practice making the buttonhole on scrap fabric several times before you try on the real thing.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option. The most important thing I learned was to know exactly where I wanted the stitch to go and then to hold my foot down and not let it back up until the machine stopped itself. With modern machines, they do all the work for you. You just need to nail the placement and be patient.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option.

Keyhole buttonholes

See the stitches that have little circles at the bottom instead of being perfect rectangles? Those are stitches for keyhole buttonholes. They are perfect for when you are using large, or heavy buttons; the circular shape at the bottom gives the button a place to rest in. Likewise, they are used for thick or furry fabrics, again to give the button more room to get through the hole.

Happy sewing. If you sew some buttonholes today, let us know!

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Sometimes it is hard to think of a great gift to sew for dad. It might seem like endless project options come to mind for most any other recipient, but gift ideas to sew for men don’t come quite as easy. Between the holidays, his birthday, and Father’s Day, you need a few good gift ideas each year—and that’s if you only have one dad to sew for!

Gifts to Sew for Dad

To help solve this perennial problem, here’s a long resource list of ideas to sew for men, including your dad, your children’s dad, or any other dad you might love.

Pillowcase

I seem to list pillowcases in every gift idea post I write! That’s because they are easy to make in a hurry, everyone uses them, and none are as nice as those that you make. So they make a nice gift to sew for dad, too. My dear always loves a gift of a new pillowcase, especially for his jumbo XL long pillow. Last year, I made him one with Star Trek fabric, it is covered with line drawings of the Enterprise.  I used a vintage yard I’ve been saving and some vintage trim, too, and made him a new one today.

I think he'll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

I think he’ll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

Pajamas

Simplicity and other pattern makers make super easy to follow patterns for pajama pants. Or you can trace a favorite pair to make a pattern, or you can follow an online tutorial.  Make them extra nice by adding pockets and drawstring waist. My dear prefers these cut quite loose and made from plaid flannel shirting; these look great on him, too.

Handkerchiefs

Make these from soft cotton; they are nice in flannel, or even knit.  Use a serger to finish all sides. For knit fabrics, you don’t even have to hem them at all. To save a step, buy these pre-made and make them more fun with tie-dye or personalize them with embroidery.

Handkerchief detail.

Handkerchief detail.

Quilt

A quilt is a perfect gift to sew for dad. Make him a lap sized or larger quilt in his favorite colors if you know them. If not, you know he loves his college or pro team’s colors, or go with a muted and manly collection of scrap fabrics. My favorite quilt I made for a man was a corduroy scrap quilt, with brightly colored squares alternating with khaki squares in a Streak of Lightning pattern. Choose a high quality, super soft cotton flannel for the quilt backing, and use cotton batting for maximum comfort quilts.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Bedside or chair arm organizer

Sew an organizer pocket to go over the side of his chair and hold his remotes and things, or under his mattress to keep glasses and reading material safely at hand.

Comfy his couch

Besides making a quilt, you can make his couch even cozier with custom cushions, perhaps one which includes pockets for his remote. Or make him a cuddly plush sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

BBQ Apron / tocque / oven mitts

Use appliqué or a fun novelty fabric to make and personalize an apron just for him. I like this reversible pattern from Michael Miller fabrics best. Make the gift even nicer by pairing it with an easy-to-make, matching chef’s hat (tocque is the proper name for these) or an oven mitt.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Handyman apron

Help him around the house by sewing a full-coverage handyman apron or an easy pocketed waist apron for holding nails or a few tools.

First aid kit

Everyone needs one. You can make it roll-up style, or with a zipper.

Zip bag

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Make him a small and simple zippered pouch for holding his cufflinks and jewelry, sketching pencils, or other small items. For something a bit roomier, here is a tutorial for a boxy toiletries bag that will work well to sew for dad.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

Phone or glasses case

These are simple and easy to make. If you prefer, make a hanging charging pouch.

Tablet tote

This one is really easy to make; scroll down to see a manly looking option. The iPlaid is a good choice for a guy, or you could make one from scrap jeans.

Laptop sleeve or bag

If you can get your hands on his laptop to take measurements, then you can make this easy laptop sleeve in an hour or less. For something with a strap, make him a messenger style bag to fit his laptop.

Lunch bag

He’d probably rather not carry a cutesy lunch sack, so here’s how to sew a reusable brown bag with waxed canvas.

Wallet

Make it bifold or trifold. Or make him a simple business card wallet.

Other kits or bags

Make a tool roll or tool bag, a cord roll, a battery bandolier organizer, a monogrammed suede bag for his liquor bottle if he carries one to go, a shoe bag for travel. I’m making a patchwork quilted ukulele bag and a drumstick bag for my hubby this year. A soft padded guitar bag is a great idea, too.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

Cup, can, or bottle cozy

Here are free tutorials to sew these for a can, a bottle, or a coffee cup.

Keychain

Lanyard type key fobs make useful gifts. You can make them with webbing, leather, even recycled jean denim. Here is a neat tutorial that includes a way to make these with a zipper for a place to stash cash. Or make something else useful to hang hang on his keychain, like a chapstick cozy or earbud or iphone pouch.

CD visor or book

Plenty of dads still keep their music on CD. If yours does, you can sew him a place to hold them on his car visor. I made one with a patchwork dive flag and ocean blue fabrics for my diver dad. You can also use felt to make pocket pages and sew a folder or book for holding CDs.

Baby carrier

Dads love to wear babies, and babies love it when they do. For a new dad, make a sling type, mei-tai, or a toddler sized soft structured carrier in a manly color or fabric.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

Sporting gifts

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Hat

There are lots of ways to sew a hat. Here are tutorials and free patterns for a few different styles:

Shorts

Buy a simple pattern, or use my 10-minute way to make shorts. You can make the bandana style shorts in that link for men using four bandanas instead of two.  Just use two bandanas instead of one for each leg, and add side seams to sew these together. Add length at the rise with a matching or coordinating fabric, or cut a couple more bandanas in half and sew these at the top. Or choose a funky fabric and whip up some board shorts for him.

Tie / bowtie

Buy some silk and make him a stylish tie with a pocket square to match. Here are tutorials for a bow tie and how to add a secret wallet pocket to the back of any tie, too.

Scarf / cowl

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you probably won’t want to give dad a scarf for Father’s Day. But for winter holidays or birthdays, a scarf or cowl makes a great gift.

Do you have other ideas?

I am sewing all my Father’s Day gifts this year. What about you? Which of these ideas will you sew for dad? If you know any good gifts to sew for dad or men that aren’t on this list, please add them by commenting below.

Sewing on Trucks, Cycling with Sewing Machines

Sewing on Trucks, Cycling with Sewing Machines

This past week, I got a call to tailor and do some fittings for my friend Matthew, who is the Costume Designer for TBS’s Search Party. I love working for Matthew. He’s sweet and fun and his design choices are quirky, a lovely mix of vintage and high end with a bit of funk blended in.

Search Party doesn’t have the budget for a full time tailor, so Matthew only calls me in for days when he’s doing a lot of fittings or he has a pile of alterations that he needs completed for the next couple weeks of filming.

Day playing

Day playing, which is what we in the film business call working for a day or two on a show when extra help is needed, can be an enjoyable experience (it can also be annoying but I try my best to avoid those types of day playing gigs). Search Party is pretty much always a positive experience, mainly because of Matthew and the people he has working for him.

So, I was happy to get the call, even though it involved going all the way to Red Hook (a neighborhood in Brooklyn sadly lacking in convenient public transportation access) and sewing on a cramped Wardrobe Truck.

The inadequate subway connection was easily solvable: I’d ride my bike just as I do most places in the city, except that I needed to bring a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies with me. Tailor day playing assignments almost always involve dragging your machine and kit through the streets, and usually not on a bicycle.

I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack.

I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack.

But, a few months ago, I received an unexpected gift from REI. I’d ordered a tent for some planned bike packing adventures but, instead, received a backpack (definitely not a tent). REI costumer service was very helpful when I called, said they’d send the tent straight away and would email me a pre-paid return label to ship the backpack back (back…). About twenty minutes after I hung up, they called back to say never mind, keep the backpack for free.

I don’t know what made me try it, but a couple weeks after that, I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack. Brilliant! Here are some photos. If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

I packed a few other things in the backpack with the machine (there was still more space!) – shoulder pads, interfacing, and lining scraps, a bag of thread, and some other not very heavy notions. The rest of my supplies, the scissors and more threads and gallon bag of elastics and tapes, I packed into my Revelate Seat Bag that I purchased from my favorite local bike shop. And I was good to go, albeit not very quickly (cause all that gear was a bit heavy)…

The lion, the witch and the Wardrobe truck

Sewing in small spaces on a Wardrobe truck where a whole crew of other people are also trying to do their jobs presents its own set of challenges. Working on the Search Party truck even more so as they use the dreaded split Wardrobe/Hair/Makeup style of 18-wheeler film truck. Most productions have separate trucks for Wardrobe and Hair/Makeup and twice as much space but smaller productions who are trying to save money go with the split trucks. What this means is that there is even less space than normal.

I set up my machine on the front corner, the sink and washer/dryer on my right and the busy Wardrobe Supervisor and her computer on my left. A few feet away, one of the customers steamed and ironed the clothes for the next day and, in the back of the truck Matthew and his assistant did fittings with various cast members. Occasionally, the set costumer was also on the truck gathering things for the next scene, as well as the shopper dropping off or picking up items.

High chair

I had a chair that was too high for the counter. I’d have to crouch in order to sew while sitting in it. Below the counter were drawers so there was no convenient place to put the foot pedal. I ended up standing up to sew, my leg turned out to the right to operate the pedal from a side-saddle angle. The foot kept getting stuck under the lip of the bottom drawer so that the machine would continue to sew even after I’d taken my foot off. I had about two inches of empty space to the left of my machine before the supervisor’s notebooks and computer and the cord from the iron kept falling (along with a bunch of my pins) into the sink to my right. I had to shift position slightly every time someone needed to fill or empty the washer and dryer.

But, it was still a wonderfully pleasant work-day. Because we were all in good spirits and we all worked together, happily jockeying for space, seamlessly adapting to each other’s needs, laughing when we all seemed to need to occupy the same twelve inches of space at the same time, all of us just getting our jobs done.

Things don’t always work this well on a crowded wardrobe truck. Sometimes people forget that everyone’s jobs are important and necessary to the project. Sometimes people are cranky because of lack of sleep, or stress, or just because it’s their nature. But it doesn’t have to be that way and, if you ask me, it shouldn’t. Making TV does not, after all, have anything to do with curing cancer or launching rocket ships (sometimes people forget that!).

One of the most wonderful things is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. Its also a pretty good way of getting things done! I highly recommend it. 🙂

Professional Quilt Pieces by AccuQuilt

Professional Quilt Pieces by AccuQuilt

'Winging it.'

‘Winging it.’

Good morning My Sewing Friends,

I appreciate all the comments I received from my last blog. I feel the need to preface this one with the explanation that I always try to do the best I can about measuring and sewing seams straight and accurately. I felt a little guilty telling you that I kind of “winged” it in the blog time before last about the scrap quilt made from pieces that were matched not measured in size. I just want to say that I firmly believe anything you attempt to do, do it well, or do it again to make it better. Perfection with sewing comes with practice, but don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t turn out the first time. Your time is valuable and the reward of doing something that looks great takes work and focus. But please, enjoy it along the way!

Angela jumps down now!

Angela jumps down now!

Today I want to do a product review that saves a lot of time and makes great sense to do when you are planning a quilt. So many ideas are available through quilt patterns and packaged quilt kits. Online stores have a multitude of pattern quilts and instructions.

Those are great for ideas, but to me, a quilt designed by the person sewing it, is much more rewarding and showcases your personal style.

Fly into the comfort zone

Come out of your comfort zone and design your own patterns using different textures, shapes and colors. Look through quilting magazines for inspiration, Pinterest or other sewing books. Most quilts are made by geometric square, triangles, parallelograms, and blocks of different sizes. Sewn together or apart, so many options are available, but make it your own with your favorite elements.

Make a design board of your favorite shapes and colors, then decide which type of fabric designs that you enjoy looking at, and the colors that would blend in your home or those you may make for donations or gifts. All fabric fits into design groups. Learn about which are modern, traditional, tribal, and vintage. Look at the different patterns and discover that most are blocks and triangles, strips and even other cut pieces that when cut from different pieces can form a very sweet quilt made like a picture.

So, let me introduce to you to the product regarding these concepts to build the precisely cut quilt pieces that would you would love making and know that you have the only one like it. The products are the AccuQuilt GO Cutter Line of fabric cutters.

SewingMachinesPlus.com has these products that fit any budget. You can quickly cut accurate blocks, triangles and many other shapes with these fabric cutters. The idea is that a die is in the machine and up to six layers of cotton can be placed on a cutting mat and be cut all at once. What a time saver! No turning the fabric on the mat and measuring again and again and cutting with your rotary cutter. The best part is they have a wide assortment of strip dies, alphabet, parallelogram, rectangles and blocks as well as other small shapes for baby appliques and seasonal shapes.

You can have all your shapes and strips cut to be able to sew a quilt in record time.

AccuQuilt Go includes

In summary, the AccuQuilt Go line of Fabric Cutters have the following to promote beautiful sewing projects.

  1. Faster than rotary cutters or scissors
  2. Safe to use
  3. Portable and lightweight ( See the “Go Baby” and the “Go” Cutter (Great for sewing class or retreats and smaller projects)
  4. Includes die and cutting mat that last for many die cut pieces
  5. Additional dies of many types are available for designing patterns besides
    blocks and triangles
  6. AccuQuilt “GO BIG” Electric Cutter for larger projects and more die choices
  7. Ask about financing – you will save so you can purchase the fabric you love (love this one!)
  8. Ask about Limited Warranty on the machines when you order
  9. Still can be used when following patterns and with ready made design kits if you are not ready to “plunge in the fabric pool” and design your own patterns

There you have it! Order online from SewingMachinesPlus.com or call them and ask for help to decide which cutter best suits your needs. Then send me a picture in the comments space below of your beautiful personally designed item. I would love to see it. Start small and you will finish projects and love the results!

Ready? One, two, three, AccuQuilt GO!

By the way, tell SewingMachinesPlus.com that Angela sent you!

Have a happy sunny day, and Keep Calm, Keep Sewing!

**Above images from Accu-Quilt Website
Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence. Graduating seniors have earned the recognition and gifts their family bestows. We’d like to throw our hat in the ring and congratulate all graduates this year too! To help them celebrate, we have some great gift suggestions for grads who love to sew.

Sewing Totes

As your graduate heads out into the world for the next phase of their life, they’ll want to have their sewing machine and supplies with them. Sewing totes are the perfect way for them to pack up all their sewing gear safely and transport it to this next step on their life and for all the subsequent moves to come. The variety of colors, styles and sizes means you’ll find the perfect sewing tote for your graduate.

Embroidery Hoops

Not all of this year’s grads will embroider, but those who do will love getting a gift of embroidery hoops. Try getting them a variety of shapes and sizes so they’ll have plenty on hand for future projects. And know that any time they use one of the hoops you gave them, they’ll think of you while working on their embroidery project. Those warm memories will work their way into the project, making it that much more special.

Sewing Furniture

Many new graduates begin by moving into a place of their own – with or without roommates. Help them get set up and make their place comfortable with sewing furniture. Whether they’ll have a separate sewing room or a small space in the corner of a shared apartment, the right sewing furniture will help them feel more comfortable and settle into their new living arrangements.

Garment Care

With luck, the graduate in your life has a job lined up. Whether they do or not, they’ll need to look their professional best on the on the job hunt and in the workplace. Garment care items will help them do just that. They work well on both store-bought and handmade items, so your graduate who loves to sew may wind up sharing these gifts with their roommates and coworkers.

Graduates who love to sew may also appreciate gift certificates to fabric stores or to our website. What will you buy your grad this year?

Printed Fabric Project Panels and Ideas

Printed Fabric Project Panels and Ideas

Have you looked into the world of printed fabric panels yet? If you are someone who wants to sew, but doesn’t want to take the time to do detailed, intricate work, a printed fabric project might be more your speed. With pre-printed fabric you can easily sew up gifts for babies and new mothers, teacher and holiday gifts, and so much more.

Kids and New Moms

Making a gift for an expectant mother or little kid in your life? Now you can piece together quiet books, soft books, plushies, play cubes, and toys by buying fabric panels, cutting out the patterns, stuffing, and sewing. Here are a few darling examples.

Tara Lilly’s Whimsical Storybook, Sea Urchin Studio’s Forest Fellows 2, Ed Emberley’s Happy Drawing, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ What Pet Should I Get?

Tara Lilly’s Whimsical Storybook, Sea Urchin Studio’s Forest Fellows 2, Ed Emberley’s Happy Drawing, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ What Pet Should I Get?

Housewarming and Hostess Gifts

The next time I sew an apron, I’m going to buy a pre-printed fabric panel and just cut and sew. Likewise, there are fabric panels available out there for every type of friend and host or hostess gift you may need. I especially like the two highlighted below for beer lovers and DIYers.

Carly Griffith’s Merry Matryoshka, Robert Kaufman’s Cheers, Maia Ferrell’s Home Grown, Hawthorn Thread’s Bengal Panel.

Carly Griffith’s Merry Matryoshka, Robert Kaufman’s Cheers, Maia Ferrell’s Home Grown, Hawthorn Thread’s Bengal Panel.

Make Your Own Pillows

Never buy store bought decorative pillows again. Now you can cut out and sew any size panel with an endless array of patterns, designs, and quotes by inspirational people. I’ve got the John Muir quote one in my shopping cart.

Hawthorne Thread’s Calypso in Aegean, Redwood Panel with John Muir quote, Autumn Fawn with Henry David Thoreau quote, and their Brave Panel in Valor.

Hawthorne Thread’s Calypso in Aegean, Redwood Panel with John Muir quote, Autumn Fawn with Henry David Thoreau quote, and their Brave Panel in Valor.

Full-sized Quilt Panels

That’s right. Now you can buy an entire fabric panel ready to quilt. You don’t have to piece these beauties together. Just add batting and a backing and start quilting. For my Star Wars and Outlander fan friends, yes, you can now get your favorite heroines in full-sized quilts!

Camelot Cotton’s Rey and BB8, Hawthorne Thread’s Bengal Quilt Panel, and their Fawn Quilt Panel in Aspen, and Kathy Hall’s Outlander Panel.

Camelot Cotton’s Rey and BB8, Hawthorne Thread’s Bengal Quilt Panel, and their Fawn Quilt Panel in Aspen, and Kathy Hall’s Outlander Panel.

Season’s Greetings

Holiday decorating and seasonal teacher and co-worker gifts are much easier now that fabric comes in these printed panel projects. Make a stocking for everyone in your kids’ class or just make them all for you and deck the walls at home.

Makower UK’s Wrap it Up Hanging Panel, Ann Kelle’s Jingle 4 Stockings, and Hawthorne Thread’s Oh What Fun Stockings cut outs, and Hawthorne Thread’s Fairisle Panel in Multi.

Makower UK’s Wrap it Up Hanging Panel, Ann Kelle’s Jingle 4 Stockings, and Hawthorne Thread’s Oh What Fun Stockings cut outs, and Hawthorne Thread’s Fairisle Panel in Multi.

This is Halloween

I had to spotlight Halloween printed fabric panels because I know a lot of my friends struggle to find Halloween crafts. No more! Make your own trick or treat or gift bags and spooky buntings and pillows.

Hawthorne Thread’s Nocturne Trick or Treat Bag panel, Halloween Pillows, Halloween Bunting, and Halloween Treat Bags by Heidi Kennedy on Spoonflower.

Hawthorne Thread’s Nocturne Trick or Treat Bag panel, Halloween Pillows, Halloween Bunting, and Halloween Treat Bags by Heidi Kennedy on Spoonflower.

What a Doll

Full fabric quilt panels and doll patterns are where I think preprinted fabric panels really shine. Both categories are a lot of work when you make everything from scratch. These cut-out-and-sew doll patterns will have you finished in no time, and the gift recipients are guaranteed to love what you make.

Daphne by stacyiesthsu, Cute Dia de Los Muertos Doll by elladorine, Frenche by ewa_brzozowska, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by nicoleporter, Angelina Cut N Sew Doll by tiffanyhoward, Cut and Sew Doll Pattern Steampunk Princess by selinafenech, Margo by stacyiesthsu, Frida Kahlo by nicoleporter, and Cut N Sew Bunka Dolls by heidikennedy.

Daphne by stacyiesthsu, Cute Dia de Los Muertos Doll by elladorine, Frenche by ewa_brzozowska, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by nicoleporter, Angelina Cut N Sew Doll by tiffanyhoward, Cut and Sew Doll Pattern Steampunk Princess by selinafenech, Margo by stacyiesthsu, Frida Kahlo by nicoleporter, and Cut N Sew Bunka Dolls by heidikennedy.

Do you use preprinted fabric panels? What are your favorite projects to make from them?

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
The Basics of Cathedral Window Quilts

The Basics of Cathedral Window Quilts

The time has come to explore yet another quilt type, and this one seems a bit less known than your standard patchworks and rag quilts. In fact, until I was doing brainstorm-browsing for this post, I don’t recall having ever heard of this kind of quilt, but the style is noteworthy enough to merit looking into. Through repetition, pattern, and color, quilts of this variety can have an interesting look to them that makes them stand out in similar fashion to the architectural designs of their namesakes.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt.

The type of quilt I’m referring to is a cathedral window quilt, and as distinctive as cathedrals themselves could prove, these sewing products can be straightforwardly identifiable once you know the traits to search for. Those traits, as with the artistic and structural wonder of cathedrals themselves, can catch the eye with their composition and beauty like few other quilt styles — in my opinion — are capable of doing. In this post, we’ll go through a list of typical characteristics that you can spot in a cathedral window quilt that provide evidence of its type so you can more easily identify one in a crowd of variously styled quilts. In particular, we’ll focus on four distinctive features of cathedral window quilts, starting with their…

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring.

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring.

Bold colors

These quilts are not necessarily known for bright coloring, but a good percentage of the fabric used in creating a work of this category could be very bold, like dark blues, greens, and reds that give their sections a real pop. Even with the cathedral window quilts that use more pastel-based colors, those color options are still varied and strong, and they could build centralized sparks of color in certain patterns. If you’re going to make a cathedral window quilt, be sure to include some very dynamic colors to give these defined and robust splashes of color throughout the product. These bits of color, to construct the right design, “are folded precisely and sewn with curves to create small windows,” and “folded blocks are added together until the quilt is the desired size.” This sounds very direct and uncomplicated, but what are those bold-colored fabric pieces added to? That would be…

The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light & dark make each section stand out.

The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light & dark make each section stand out.

White fabric

Along with varied colors, it’s also a good idea to snatch up some white fabric if you intend to make a cathedral window quilt. That white fabric added in contrast to the bold colors already mentioned helps to cement the notion of having stand-out sections of color on your quilt. Typically, the white fabric can completely surround portions of bold-colored fabric, but the reverse can be true as well if bold colors appear to surround the white fabric. The overall point though is that the juxtaposition of light and dark make each section stand out — the bold colors and the white sections — to result in a quilt that doesn’t necessarily have a single piece of it that isn’t remarkable and noteworthy.  The consequence is a repetitious design that follows a…

These quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design—ones that can be mimicked in pillows.

These quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design—ones that can be mimicked in pillows.

Definite pattern

Often, these quilts can employ very specific shapes in their overall design — ones that can be mimicked in pillows. Specifically, the bold colors are often in the shape of near-diamonds, but those diamonds’ sides invert inward to create a swooping motion along all four sides. That diamond-esque shape is surrounded by a circle — one that can be ringed — and those circles can overlap throughout the entirety of the project. Is this the only way that a cathedral window quilt can take shape? Well, it’s not set in concrete! But if you see this general pattern, you have very real evidence that you’re looking at a cathedral window quilt since the pattern is so common for the style. Another trademark is that it has…

If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes & such, so the work could feel more vulnerable.

If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes & such, so the work could feel more vulnerable.

No backing

That’s right! With this quilt variety, you can forego the backing detail since the “quilt blocks… stand alone as is” without that extra detail. Does that factor make for an easier project? Maybe not! If you neglect a layer of quilt, that’s a layer of quilt that isn’t available to strategically cover mistakes and such, so the work could feel more vulnerable. Once you get the hang of the process though and make the adjustment, it might actually lead to an easier quilting experience because “you simply iron down your edges and sew.” Considering the level of beauty that these quilts can achieve, it seems like a sensible prospect to push through the confusion of learning to construct a quilt without a backing in order to eventually fashion such a lovely and reportedly easy project.

With these guidelines in mind, you could be able to spot a standard cathedral window quilt among other quilt options with scarce effort. In fact, coming to that conclusion of quilt style could become almost instinct where you look at a product and say, “Yeah! That’s a cathedral window quilt!” since the appearance is so very individual — and lovely!