Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

The film and television business has many safety precautions in place. Productions almost always have a Stunt Coordinator to supervise and choreograph any type of fight or daredevil action scene. Actors and actresses often have stunt doubles who will perform most of the really ‘dangerous’ bits. Big name actors usually have a regular stunt double who always works with them no matter what show or film they are on.

What this means costume-wise, is that we need to dress the double in exactly the same clothes as the actor. Many times, both the stunt and actor themselves will require multiple outfits of the same thing.

Love / hate

I have a love-hate relationship with multiples. On the one hand, it can be super boring to do the same alteration on the same pair of pants, or jacket, or whatever six to ten times. On the other hand, it can be a very zen experience: doing the same thing over and over kind of puts you into a rhythm where everything flows naturally and without much thought. I prefer to do all the multiples at one time if possible.

When I lived in Austin, TX, I worked as a set costumer on many of the films directed by Robert Rodriguez: Spy Kids, Sin City, Grindhouse. His movies are very stunt heavy which makes his sets very active and interesting. The stunt coordinator for all the films I worked on for Mr. Rodriguez was a lovely and talented man named Jeff Dashnaw. Many of the actors and stunt actors were harnessed for various scenes. A stunt harness is similar, I suppose, to a climbing harness or rig. It’s made of heavy canvas and twill and sometimes has metal jump rings to facilitate the attachment of cables.

There are different types of harnesses, depending on what sort of action is required. Some are full vests and some are just a belt and leg straps. It’s up to the stunt coordinator to determine what harness should be used and where the cables should be attached in order to create the desired effect. There’s quite a bit of physics knowledge in all of that!

What to do when things go wrong

Things can go wrong sometimes and people can be injured. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all that often. On a show I worked on recently one of the actors tore a ligament in his hand which, in turn, resulted in him having to wear a big, rather awkward cast. The task of trying to disguise this cast fell to the costume department.

The costume designer and I had to figure out how to make a glove of some sort to cover the cast.

Tracing of hands.

Tracing of hands.

First, we traced the actor’s hand in his cast.

Make a pattern.

Make a pattern.

Next, I made a pattern of the tracing. Our idea was to use an existing glove, take it apart, stitch the fingers together (since his fingers are bound together), and add a new neoprene layer on the palm side.

Taking apart an existing glove.

Taking apart an existing glove.

This was the first result: Not too bad.

First attempt at a glove to hide the cast.

First attempt at a glove to hide the cast.

Then we decided that it might look better to have the thumb separate so I did some modifications:

Attempt 2 with separate thumb.

Attempt 2 with separate thumb.

Now, it’s a bit too small across the knuckles so I have to take the neoprene back off and recut a new, wider one, to add some width.

Being flexible is key

Projects like this are fairly normal in my sewing life. And if there’s one thing that seems to be true no matter what show I’m working on it’s that the costume department is almost always the ones tasked with finding solutions to a problem that no one else wants to deal with.

TV magic. It’s a real thing. This actually reminds me of an incident during Boardwalk Empire when I came to work one morning to find a shredded beaded dress on my table with a note that said, “Help! Please work your magic to fix this dress. It works again this evening.”

We did indeed manage to put the dress back together to get through one more night of filming but we sent it back to set with a note that read, “We are all out of magic for the week but did our best to bring this dress back from the dead. Love, The Costume Shop.”

Free Brother Sewing Projects

Free Brother Sewing Projects

Free Brother Sewing Projects

How cool is this? Project Runway uses Brother sewing machines to create their fabulous fashions. To celebrate, we’ve got some amazing Free Brother Sewing Projects right from Project Runway. You’ll love making them and wearing them!

Feathered Skirt

Free pencil skirt pattern by Christopher Palu.

Free pencil skirt pattern by Christopher Palu.

Christopher Palu shares his amazing feathering technique. It’s easier than you might think and makes any fabric look gorgeous. He teaches it to you in this free pencil skirt pattern. You’ll need two different fabrics, one solid and one patterned, that look well together and a zipper. Give it a shot and share a picture of your results!

Makeup Bag

Seth Aaron’s free makeup bag pattern.

Seth Aaron’s free makeup bag pattern.

No fashionista’s get up is complete without makeup and way to touch up imperfections on the go. Seth Aaron’s makeup bag pattern is the ultimate in makeup carry-alls. There’s room for all your makeup essentials inside the bag and the exterior strap holds all the brushes you’ll need to keep your face looking its best all day and night long.

Custom Laptop Case

Joshua Cook’s custom laptop case free pattern.

Joshua Cook’s custom laptop case free pattern.

In the on-the-go world we live in, most people carry their laptop with them at some point. This is simply another way to show your style. Forget those laptop cases you can buy at any retailer. Instead, create a custom laptop case with Joshua Cook’s pattern. It works up quickly in less than 20 steps.

Earrings

Anthony Auld’s free Embroidered Earrings pattern.

Anthony Auld’s free Embroidered Earrings pattern.

Yes, that’s right, you can make earrings with your Brother sewing machine. They’re a great way to practice your embroidery skills. Anthony Auld shows you how to get fashion on your ears using your Brother in this free Embroidered Earrings pattern. Make sure to share pictures of your amazing earring creations.

Whether you’re looking to practice your sewing skills or learn some new ones, these fabulous Project Runway Free sewing patterns for Brother are a great place to start. They’ll add some class and style to your wardrobe, too – you’ll feel like you just stepped off the runway!

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

The Deeper Side of Toy Sewing Machines

I remember being a child in a store when my mom was deciding to buy another child a toy sewing machine. I was too young for it, making it what could’ve been a dangerous option for me, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t jealous of the other child who would get the sewing machine!

Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and my brother asked me if a toy sewing machine he was thinking about buying would work. My response was something like, “No, they never do.”

Toys are for kids

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

In a world of game systems & electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves.

This might be a misconception on my end of things in assuming that toy sewing machines will be, simply put, less than adequate. In fact, one or two of them probably do at least basically stitch together the small projects they come with. But it’s led to a question in my mind that I’d like to explore for a bit. That question is why sewing continues to be an intriguing prospect as the years roll by, to the point that in a world of game systems and electronics, toy sewing machines that may or may not work are still on the shelves. Even for adults, sewing can be seen as a throwback hobby, so why is it so appealing that a younger generation would still add a sewing machine onto their lists to Santa along with the latest Wii and the most impressive riding toy on the market?

Pass it on

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Here’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing.

Well, for one thing, there’s a pass-it-on quality that goes along with sewing, and as children, we were kind of prone to looking at what our parents were doing for inspiration. It’s no surprise this tradition passed on to today’s world if you think about things in that context. Our great-great grandparents may have needed to create their own clothes, blankets, etc. in a world that was very different than ours, and even when society changed enough to start negating that need through things like the division of labor, there were still probably little eyes looking up at the quilters and such who continued their crafts in spite of the changes, maybe out of genuine love of the endeavors. That generation could’ve kept the tradition going for another group of young eyes to latch on to, on and up to recent times when little eyes are looking at that little sewing machine that looks so much like the one at home.

Invaluable skills

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money.

It’s also practical! No matter who you are and what you do, you’re probably going to need something mended at some point in your life. Not only does this increase the odds of those little eyes seeing sewing in action, but it provides usefulness to the hobby that makes it a logical thing to learn. Sure, you can pay a seamstress to sew the rip in your coat’s lining, but in the long run, being able to sew that lining yourself saves money. I admit that most kids probably aren’t diving into the sewing world with money in mind, but being able to contribute with such a grown-up task could be appealing to them. Don’t believe me? Try baking a cake in a room full of kids and see how many offer to help!

A family that sews together stays together

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew & watch my superhero movies at the same time!

Sewing, as it happens, has the added bonus of being so convenient that I can sew and watch my superhero movies at the same time! Because of this convenience factor, it can be an endeavor that comes with good memories and feelings for children. Think about it. If I were making a rag quilt, I could sit with my nieces while a cheesy cartoon played and fray the edges for the quilt. It’s a hobby that allows time for them, and that’s a detail that a child could easily appreciate. With those kinds of good feelings and that pleasant context, picking up a sewing interest isn’t that shocking!

A generational tradition

On the flipside, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles… We might appreciate the interest as well. Why? For one thing, it’s creative, which helps a child expand in imagination and think outside of the box. The little sewing enthusiast could construct a final product that really took time and effort, and that pride could be something that proves fulfilling enough to warm the nearby adult’s heart. Another appealing detail for the adults buying these toys and encouraging the interest is that sewing is a relatively safe activity for a child who’s reached an appropriate age. Clearly, you shouldn’t hand a three-year-old a sewing needle, but an older, more mature child would be able to dive into the hobby with little worry over injuries.

For child and parent then, this could be an easy interest to embrace! So, why was I confused about the continued existence of toy sewing machines again?!

Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

Crazy Patch Butterfly Applique Blocks

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

These crazy patch butterfly blocks happened by accident.

The last time I made a crazy patch quilt, I wound up with two extra blocks. I have no intention of collecting UFO blocks, but I’m not inclined to throw my handiwork away. So I stared at them a while, trying to think of something to make from these extra blocks.

Something told me to cut them into triangles, so I did, still not knowing what I’d do with them. I played with the triangle pieces for a few minutes, and this design idea came to me. I think it’s a good one.

You could make a bunch of these for a quilt, a few for a table or bed runner, feature one in a sampler quilt, or just make one for a small project.

I plan to use one of these to make an oversized pocket on a skirt. And I’ll show you what I’m going to do with the other one next week, so stay tuned.

Here are the steps to make these:

Crazy Patch Butterfly Blocks

For each block, you will need:

  • Background rectangle or square
  • Muslin square
  • Assorted small scraps

Step one: make the crazy patchwork

You could make these crazy patch butterfly blocks any size, but my examples started with a six inch square. Take your muslin square and arrange a several sided scrap somewhere near the middle of the square.  Choose another scrap with one side at least as long as one side of the first fabric, and place it right side down atop the first.  Sew along this seam, flip the second fabric down where the right side faces up, then press.  Repeat this process, gradually adding scraps, until the square is fully covered by your assorted scraps.

Then, place the block right side down on your cutting mat and use your rotary cutter and ruler to trim the fabric scrap from the edges of the muslin square.

I made one on video so you can see exactly how to do this step:

I should mention that traditional crazy patchwork also incorporates embroidery stitches over the seam lines. If you have a machine that does decorative stitching, then you can sew a line of decorative stitches along the seam after you add each new scrap to your crazy square. You don’t want to wait until the end, since these scraps go every which way.

Step two: cut triangles

Now lay the crazy patchwork square right side up on your cutting board. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut it in half diagonally, then move your ruler and cut diagonally the other way, to end up with four quarter square triangles. You could use scissors if you don’t have a rotary cutter, but if you want to make patchwork, you really want to get a rotary cutter and cutting mat.

Step three: appliqué

Here’s how to arrange the triangles to construct these crazy patch butterfly blocks. Place the top pair of wings with points together and the ninety degree angles at the outside bottom corners. Then angle the bottom wing pieces with the longest edges on the inside and the ninety degree angles pointing out.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Crazy patch butterfly block.

Pin these to your backing square and appliqué using a satin stitch. I made these using a rectangular backing cut at nine and a quarter by eleven and a half inches.

If you will be using these for a small project rather than a quilt, there is an alternative way to hold your pieces in place rather than using pins. You could use double-sided fusible web. You would affix this to the back of your appliqué pieces and then remove the paper backing and affix the other side to the backing rectangle.

This makes appliqué really easy, but I don’t recommend using it for quilts, because it will be crinkly inside the appliqué. If you are making a wall quilt or other small decorative project, it is an easy choice.

Bust out the scraps

After you appliqué the crazy patch butterfly wings, then use corduroy or another scrap fabric to cut a long, tapered oval for the caterpillar body. Applique this in the middle, to cover the intersecting wings.

My son just pointed out that I forgot to add antennae to mine. If you’d like to add antennae, you can do this using hand or machine embroidery. Or you can use Debbie Mumm’s easy idea that she calls pen-stitch embroidery. That is, you can draw them with a fine tipped Sharpie or other permanent pen.

Here is one that I quilted the background using using tight free-motion quilting.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

Crazy patch butterfly block quilted.

As you can see, these crazy patch butterfly blocks are super easy to make. They’d be cute on a baby, wall, or bed quilt. Or you could feature just one on an apron or skirt.

What will you make with these crazy patch butterfly blocks?

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

I’ve always been a morning person, or rather, I’ve never really found it that difficult to get up at before the crack of dawn. I’m usually not ready to actually talk to anyone until after the sun is up but, I actually really like the quiet pre-dawn hours, especially in a big city, like New York.

The bars here close at 4:00 am so the hours between four and six are the transition between last night and this morning; people who work in bars are on their way home (as well as those who were just out drinking) while another whole group of people are on their way to work. The streets are relatively quiet without much traffic – a true rarity in New York City. Cycling through the early morning streets always feels like a special, secret thing. The cabs that are out and about rarely honk this early and we share the roads without incident.

Top of the morning

A lot happens in the city between the hours of 4:00 am and 7:00 am. I’m not the only one out. Central Park is already humming starting at 5:00 am with runners, walkers, cyclists, and dogs. The street vendors are up and opening up their carts. Most bodegas are open already (many of them stay open all night). On the weekends, there are bike races and running races (the NYC half marathon was yesterday) and, all about the city, especially if its Monday morning, film and television crews are going to work, or are already at work.

If you want to work in film and television, you have to be able to get up early. And I mean early, like before 5:00 am, and, if you’re in the wardrobe of hair and makeup departments, often before 4:00 am. It’s not unusual for the costume and wardrobe departments to have to be at work by 5:30am, or 5:00 am. I’ve even had to be at work by 4:30 am before.

Actor call times for this morning, including fitting times.

Actor call times for this morning, including fitting times.

The main reason for this is the sun, and the fact that most shooting days are, at a very minimum, twelve hours long. Mondays usually mean a super early start as the goal is often to start filming outside as soon as the sun is up (you don’t want to miss any of that precious daylight, especially in the winter months when the days are shorter).

It’s all about proper preparation

In order to have the actors ready to go on set when the sun is up, they need to get to work an hour or two beforehand to go through hair and makeup and to get dressed. If it’s day that requires a large amount of background actors to be dressed and ready to go in the first shot, they (and the wardrobe people who are there to help them get ready) often must report to work a couple hours before sunrise.

As the tailor, I often have to be at work for an early morning fitting that happens before an actor goes to hair and makeup. Then I have the hour or so when they’re “in the chair” as we call it in the film business, to complete an alteration. This is also when my fast sewing skills come in handy.

The early bird

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am.

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am.

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am. We were also on the stage most of last week, including Friday, so the crew will be pretty much ready at 7:00 to start shooting. If we’ve been out somewhere on location shooting, sometimes an extra half hour or so is needed to get the lights ready, the cameras out, the props set, etc.

Times the wardrobe, costume, and hair & makeup departments had to be at work this morning.

Times the wardrobe, costume, and hair & makeup departments had to be at work this morning.

The wardrobe crew, though, was here at 5:42 and 6:00 and the first actors arrived by 6:00.

Sometimes people ask how I’m able to get up so early. I honestly don’t know the answer. I will say that I think you do get used to it. I actually hate when I don’t have to be at work until 9:00 or 10:00, mainly because it can take twice as long to get there when you’re in the midst of rush hour traffic. I’d choose the 5:00 and 6:00 am starts every time.

I do my best, focused work early in the morning; things don’t seem as frenetic before the sun is up. There are fewer distractions, the phone doesn’t ring, the only texts are most likely directly related to whatever I’m working on, people aren’t quite awake yet so there’s less chit chat. Things just seem to flow along at a steady, quiet, unencumbered pace.  Also, when you get to work at 6:00 in the morning, you get to have second breakfast at 10:00 – and who wouldn’t be up for that?

Cactus & Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

Cactus and Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

California’s deserts are super blooming right now thanks to a long and wet winter. While we still have over 15 feet of snow in the ground here in Mammoth Lakes, California, I am not immune to dreaming of spring and the beauty of a flowering desert.

With that in mind, I give you NINE fabric lines featuring cacti, succulents, and the beauty of the high and low deserts.

Desert blooms

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

Lovely llamas

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

California dreaming

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry, and the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Joel Dewberry’s Cali Mod fabric continues with the California theme. He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant and metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

Back into the desert

The next two lines are both by Hawthorne Threads and they each coordinate with the other, as well as with Palm Springs above. Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

And this is Coyote, also by Hawthorne Threads. They basically have the market cornered on any type of desert, cacti, or succulent-themed fabric you could want. The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt and wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

Heading to Arizona

Bari J. Ackerman’s fabric line, Sage, moves us from the California deserts to her home state of Arizona. These fabrics are individually works of arts, together, they are really visually stunning. The maximalist floral and fruit prints combined with repetitive patterns, bright colors, cacti, and desert animals render me incapable of picking a favorite fabric. I love and want them all!

I love & want them all!

I love & want them all!

Succulence

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine and Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line. The only plants I can keep alive are succulents; it’s nearly impossible to kill them. They thrive in amazing conditions. Bonnie has paid homage to this amazing ability to survive with even tiny amounts of water in this retro-inspired line of succulent fabrics.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Did I miss any? Do you have any other favorite cacti, succulent, or desert-inspired fabrics you love? Let us know about them in comments!

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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.
Charity Sew Event

Charity Sew Event

Sewing is great. Sewing with others is even better. Sewing with others to benefit a great cause is the best! Lucky for you, there’s an event happening on April 8, 2017 where you can sew to help a great cause – sustainable feminine hygiene!

Days for Girls

Days for Girls International helps girls go to school & women go to work in more than 100 countries.

Days for Girls International helps girls go to school & women go to work in more than 100 countries.

Days for Girls International helps girls go to school and women go to work in more than 100 countries. They provide sustainable feminine hygiene solutions and health education in areas where women and girls would otherwise be isolated during their monthly period.

So far, their work – and the work of great volunteers like you – has been shown to give back six months of living for just three years of use. That may not seem like much to you, but to girls and women in areas where they’d otherwise be confined during their period, this is huge!

It’s not just six months of life; it’s six months of living, of thriving. It’s six months of dignity and safety and its progress towards educating the community and changing the perceptions about women around the world.

What You’ll Make

The feminine hygiene kits are assembled by great volunteers! Here’s a quick look at what’s inside.

  1. A fashionable drawstring bag. This is durable and stylish so she can carry her feminine hygiene kit to school or work for up to three years.
  2. Moisture barrier shields. These shields hold the liners in place and stop leaks. They’re pre-loaded to demonstrate how to adjust based on flow.
  3. Travel size soap. The distributing organizations provide more soap in the country of distribution. Travel size saves on shipping costs and weight.
  4. Instruction sheet with pictures.
  5. Two pairs of panties girls’ sizes 10 – 14.
  6. Wash cloth. In addition to being used to cleaning, it’s a great way for educators to introduce hygiene topics.
  7. Eight absorbent trifold pads. These are washable and reusable. They don’t look like pads in the U.S. and can be cleaned without girls risking exposure or crossing taboos.
  8. Two one-gallon size Ziploc freezer bags. These are used for transporting soiled items and washing them discretely using very little water.

How to Get Involved

This amazing project that provides security and cleanliness to women across the globe needs your help! Sign up in our store beforehand. On the day of the sew event, bring your machine and come ready to share the experience with other women. When you sign up, we’re happy to give you information on fabric and other items you can donate to further help with the cause. We appreciate all your help!

Click image to go to event page!

Click image to go to event page!

The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

Let’s be honest. Sewing isn’t the most dangerous hobby. I’m not driving a Nascar race, flipping in the air off of a dirt bike, or taming poisonous reptiles. Overall, it’s a safe assumption that I’m not chancing my life by trying to finish a sewing project! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for smaller injuries in the world of sewing, and one of those possibilities has surfaced a number of times on this blog: Accidentally sticking yourself with a straight pin.

Ouch!

Don't misplace your straight pin container!

Don’t misplace your straight pin container!

Sure, it’s a minor injury. There’s no need to rush to the hospital, and you probably won’t break out a Tylenol bottle to help with the pain. Regardless, it is a discomfort, and the possibility of enduring that discomfort extends beyond your sewing session if you do what I’ve found to be one of the easiest missteps in sewing, which is losing your straight pins. I don’t mean misplacing your straight pin container either! I mean that once you put away your sewing materials and supplies, you find that there is at least one straight pin lingering in or around your sewing area.  Each of those straight pins could be a future discomfort waiting to happen, and every one could also bring you one step closer to buying more straight pins.

But it’s sooo easy to lose these things! How can a person keep from having it happen?

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Sometimes it’s unavoidable…

For me, personally, I’m leaning toward the idea that I can’t completely prevent it. In fact, my leaving straight pins behind is kind of a running joke in my house. Other than using a pin cushion, the only advice I have to offer on that detail is to make the right choice when buying your pins. Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice! In my experience, ones with a bit more length to them seem to hold their places better than the shorter ones, and I think logic backs that up. The longer the pin, the more space you have to lock it in place in your fabric. If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

Even with those longer pins and pin cushion though, pins still might end up scattered around your work area. So when nothing you’ve done keeps your straight pins from falling to the floor, seat, etc., how do you find them to put them away and prevent someone from accidentally coming across one in a not-so-pleasant fashion? Here are some ideas!

Your own senses

This one is obvious, so let’s begin with it. Sometimes, just looking around your sewing area can let you find loose straight pins, and gently patting your hand (not pressing too hard since pins are, indeed, sharp) could help you detect them as well. I honestly don’t know how many pins I’ve found with these tactics, and I didn’t have to buy anything for them!

Found ya!

Found ya!

Shine a flashlight

Objects that are the color and/or texture of a straight pin reflect light, so if you shine a flashlight, you might get a glimmer in response that will lead you to a loose straight pin. Take your time as you do this so that you don’t look right over the pin! A few extra seconds for a better-done job could save you hassle and, as I mentioned, discomfort, in the future!

Use a vacuum cleaner

Okay, clearly, you might not want to vacuum up a straight pin for the sake of your vacuum cleaner! But as the link says, if you use an extension hose from your vacuum, you just need to put some kind of barrier over it to keep the pin out. A piece of cloth would work, and using the vacuum in this fashion would pull the straight pin out of whatever hiding place it’s in to a very obvious spot without damaging your vacuum cleaner. Simple, right?

Use a magnet

This method is plain, but effective! Just move a magnet around your work area, and any metal pin that’s close enough should be drawn to it. The strategy comes with very little hassle, and very little room for error unless your magnet is too far away from the pin. But so long as you’re thorough with covering the area, this is — in my opinion — the best tactic of the listed ones. It’s not as iffy as missing a flashlight glimmer, as unsure as eyeballing the area, or as cumbersome as breaking out (and readying) your vacuum cleaner. It’s so low-tech, most people can use it easily, and it’s cheap! What more could you ask for?

With these methods at your disposal, hopefully most of your loose straight pins can be found and preserved for future use instead of laying around for future injury!

Do you have a preference among them or know any other strategies for locating loose straight pins? If so, share your thoughts!

DIY Car Seat Poncho

DIY Car Seat Poncho

Did you know it is not safe to put kids in winter jackets in car seats? It’s true. Winter jackets are so puffy that parents need to loosen the seat belts to accommodate them, however this loosening makes the child unsafe in their car seat should they be in an accident. The jackets would compress but the child would move too far forward for safety due to the loosened seat belts.

Snow day!

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather?

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather?

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather? The good news is that you can still put snow pants on them. So use a pair of snow pants and a car seat poncho and all your problems are solved!

I’ve never sewed a hood before so I was excited to try something new and make one with this project. I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

Cozy pockets

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I’ve been trying very hard lately to make my projects with materials I already have on hand. Everything you see for this car seat poncho, I already had in my stash.

If you’ve never sewn with minky or cuddle fabrics, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to try. They are so warm and cozy and people always like when you make gifts with minky. If you have a walking foot, use it when you’re sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

Grab that pincushion

If you have a walking foot, use it when you're sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

If you have a walking foot, use it when you’re sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place. I’m not a big fan of pins, except when you really do need them; sewing the hood and the neckline of the poncho was a definite need.

Tip: if you are going to add a ribbon so you can hang the jacket from the back of the neckline, this is the moment to do it.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place.

Ta da!!! The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls. I used minky dot fabric on the underside of the poncho. The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls.

The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls.

Tales from the hood

When I tried the poncho on my youngest, the neckline was too big. No problem. I used my buttonhole foot to make two button holes right at the v of the neckline like this.

The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons and tied knots on each side. This tightened up the neckline but still allowed her to easily pull it over her noggin.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons & tied knots on each side.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons & tied knots on each side.

Lovely, no?

Lovely, no?

Lovely, no?

Once the hood and neckline were complete I smoothed out the top and bottom fabrics and made sure they fully matched. Any parts that extended past each other got chopped. Then I pinned the HECK out of the entire poncho before adding binding (See all those pins?).

See all those pins?

See all those pins?

Put a clip on it

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December. It matched the project perfectly.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December.

Momma’s little helper

When everything was sewn, I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins and then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins & then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins & then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

Lastly, I ironed. Always, always iron. It takes your project to the next level!

Pro Tip: never iron on minky directly. Do not press too hard because you’ll ruin the pattern on the minky dots (you’ll flatten the dots). I ironed the top side with steam on a wool setting.

Never iron on minky directly.

Never iron on minky directly.

Here’s the finished project. My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

Safety first

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy. Adding the elastic and buttons at the neckline was the perfect solution.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy.

Under the hood

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

Have you made your own car seat poncho? How do you like it? Let us know in comments!

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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.
What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

Spring sewing for your wardrobe is one of the best ways to chase away the end of winter woes.

What’s in style and on trend? What should you sew for this year?

What's In Style pin

Spring sewing: what’s still in style

There a few trends that popped up last year that we saw again this year on Spring runways, namely:

Lingerie-inspired fashions

Romantic and baby doll style lingerie continues to be a fashionable influence, with nightgown style dresses, both short and long, and even pajama styles being featured by many designers this year.

New this year to this category are wraps and dresses that mimic menswear-style silk robes.

Paper bag waists

These came back last year and we are still seeing them now. Luckily for us, they are easy to sew, especially for elastic waist skirts and pants. Just fold over the top of your garment an inch or more farther than you would normally fold over for an elastic casing, sew a line of stitching slightly lower than the fold to create the casing, insert your elastic, and voila.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Metallic shimmer and shine

Metallics started popping up everywhere last year, and these are still in now. You can sew most any garment in a lamé or other metallic fabric now.

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Midi lengths

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year. We also see midi length cropped pants and jumpsuits cut to this length now.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

Pleats

Last year we saw these primarily as small, accordion style pleats. This year, these are still in style. But so are pleats of slightly wider widths.

Plaids

Where large plaids were the rage last year, this year the trend is toward smaller plaids. You’ll also see a mixing and matching of similar plaids in differing scales worn together.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it's at this year.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it’s at this year.

Florals

Florals are usually everywhere in Spring. This year, they are trending a few different ways. Designers continued last year’s trend of using small scale florals in romantic, feminine style, though they’ve sometimes paired them with edgier pieces. The small scale romantic florals are particularly popular for jumpsuits now.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Ruffles

Large and wide ruffles continue to trend this year. Use these on blouses, skirts, and dresses.

Stripes

Stripes were featured widely last year, and they are still big. We saw stripes on Spring runways this year in different ways. Vertical stripes in navy or black and white are in, and so are colorful, wide horizontal rugby stripes.  Pinstripes also featured widely in men’s shirt style dresses.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

What’s New for Spring sewing 2017

Embroidery and embellishments everywhere

You can put your embroidery machine and embellishment software to good use in your Spring wardrobe now.

You can embroider any garment this year.

You can embroider any garment this year.

We saw embroidered motifs here and there last year, but it is more widely featured this year. Designers paired embroidered vests with embroidered pants and emblazoned dresses and blouses with heavy embroidery. Handbags especially were covered with embroidery designs this year.

Bags, blouses, dresses, jackets, and pants also saw lots of beading and sequins in designers’ Spring collections. From beaded and sequin designs such as florals to covered sleeves, embellishments are on trend.

Bold prints

Besides the kitschy 70’s style florals already mentioned here, other 70’s style prints are in. Also make use of graphic geometric prints this year, especially large scale prints.

Higher necklines

Mock turtlenecks are in, even on bathing suits. Boatneck styles are cut higher than usual, too, right at the neckline.  For necklines cut a bit lower, designers paired these with silk scarves wrapped tightly around the neck, to imitate the turtleneck style.

Pair dresses with less coverage, such as spaghetti straps, with higher necked tops worn underneath.

Shoulders out

There are also plenty of shoulder-baring styles this year. Off the shoulder cuts are popular, especially for peasant blouses and dresses.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Hopefully you still have the patterns you bought in 2011, because one shouldered designs are in again. One sleeved styles are trending, too.

A-line mini skirts

Cut these on the bias. A-line minis are my absolute favorite skirts to sew; I’ll share how to draft your own pattern for a perfectly fitting bias skirt here on the blog soon .

Sheers

Sheer skirts over leotard style tops. Even sheer hoodies!

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Glam

In tribute to David Bowie, 80’s style glam is trending now, especially with puffed-at-the shoulder sleeves and wide ruffles.

Flared hems

Both ankle flare pants hems and bell sleeved blouses are in style now.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Jumpsuits

Here is another major way what was hot in 2011 is back again today. Jumpsuits are big now, in all lengths, particularly wide legged midi styles, in floral prints.

Patchwork

Runways this year featured patchwork dresses of all kinds. From a mix of solids reminiscent of Amish quilts, to patchworks of patterns and florals, any kind of patchwork can work in your Spring sewing and wardrobe this year.

Feathery fringe

Feathery fringe is everywhere now, from necklines and sleeves to bags, even dresses covered in tiers of brightly colored feathered fringe.

Feathery trim.

Feathery trim.

BIG bags

While smaller handbags with heavy embroidery are in style, super XL bags are all the rage.

Spring sewing: color trends

Spring sewing: color trends

Besides the florals, bold patterns, and stripes trends already discussed, here are the color trends for this season:

  • Khaki – it’s everywhere
  • Pinks – pale pinks, mauves, raspberry
  • Blue – all shades of blue, especially several different blues worn together
  • Neutrals – these are featured more often than usual this year
  • Gold – metallics are hot in general, but especially gold
  • Yellow – while orange was hot last year, yellow seems to be the it color this year
  • Neons – these bright colors are coming back again now
Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

I’m excited that patchwork and embroidery are trending now, and I’ll be adding more of these pieces to my closet. On the other hand, in style or not, you’ll never see me wearing yellow, gold, or feathery fringe!

Which of these styles are you excited to sew for your wardrobe now and which trends would you rather skip?