The Sewing Needle Controversy

The Sewing Needle Controversy

I have a freebie calendar hanging on my wall. Well, actually, I got the calendar in the mail from a business that I’ve done quiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite a bit of shopping through, so I guess “freebie” might be a stretch. Maybe “reward” would work better? Though if they wanted to reward me, cheesecake might’ve been the better option…

In any event, the calendar has random holidays listed, like July’s “Thread the Needle Day.” Personally, I’m not sure I ever knew that there was such a thing as a day set aside for something as small as threading a needle, but hey! If the calendar says it, let’s go with it!

Threading the needle is an action related to a topic that’s somewhat un-nice for me. That un-niceness isn’t because I can’t thread a needle, but the very idea of needles can be a bit daunting to me—and not just because I may or may not have a tendency to accidentally stab myself with needles and straight pins. Blood, sweat, and tears might be a bit more literal for me in that regard than for other people!

The issue I’m bringing into the conversation today is the fact that there are SO MANY needles, and I end up sticking to a preferred one. I couldn’t even tell you what size my current sewing needle is. It was just selected by my preferred method of sewing needle selection, which is basically something like this:

“Which one is gonna be the easiest to get the thread through? Maybe this one? Okay, that’s my needle!”

Effective, no? Well, the process hasn’t left me in too dire straights as of yet, but I’m inclined to believe that there’s supposed to be more to choosing your needle than that one tiny factor. I suppose though that I’m a person of habit, and I use needles and thread without really considering the other factors that should potentially go into selecting those kinds of elements.

I’m a rebel sewer like that, I guess? Or maybe the reason is something a lot less shades-and-leather-jacket sounding. Maybe I just don’t know those other factors, and I’m too lazy to figure them out.

Large holes in used fabric.

Large holes in used fabric.

Which is bad, because while the flaw hasn’t left me in too dire straights, as I said earlier, it is the possible culprit as to why some of the thin fabric on my current project has visible holes that seem larger than they should be where the needle and thread went through. That thin fabric, by the way, also happens to be used since I’m making this quilt out of old clothes. Especially for a project as tedious as this one, maybe I should’ve been more careful about how I chose my sewing needle. The material is fragile from use, and having fabric damaged in the process of making a quilt or blanket before it ever becomes that quilt or blanket is disappointing.

Look how well some of my corners are turning out this time!

Look how well some of my corners are turning out this time!

On a side note though, look how well some of my corners are turning out this time! The change is directly connected to that online class I shared on my last post, so you might want to check it out (Kesser, n.d.)! You live and learn, I suppose, and what I’ve learned since my last blanket/quilt project has helped me better put together this one. Maybe that I-need-to-be-more-careful-about-needles thing can help on me the next project in like manner. Then, perhaps someday down the road, I can have a quilt or a blanket that doesn’t have such easily avoided mistakes! Maybe it’s one lesson at a time, one realized mistake at a time 🙂

SEW-lutions Guidelines: Your Guide to Successful Sewing

SEW-lutions Guidelines: Your Guide to Successful Sewing

Luckily though, like with learning about my sewing machine without the printed instructions, there is assistance online to help me with this needle selection problem. One source is this PDF file that takes a hand-sewer through certain kinds of needles that could be used for projects.

Another idea would be to visit a sewing shop, the really nice kind with people who are willing to help and are capable of helping customers with these sorts of issues—instead of the one that I currently use (that will remain nameless because I’m thoughtful like that) where I might do well to find someone to cut some fabric for me. I’ve actually heard about a local shop that I could try, and if I do, I’ll try to remember to take mental notes—with exquisite mental penmanship—for a later post about my first-ever, non-department-store, non-online, sewing-material-and-tools-buying experience!

All in all though… Thread the Needle Day? Maybe I should celebrate Learn Your Needle Day first even if I have to pick a random date and assign it that name myself! If anyone has any tips for this process, be sure to leave them in the comments! I—and maybe other readers—would appreciate the input!

I guess a moral of this post’s story could be that not everyone knows everything about a subject, and sometimes a bit of research could go a long way in helping to make our projects the best that they can be. Like I might have said about my sewing machine on an earlier post, if I don’t know my tools for the craft well enough to accurately use them, I’m putting myself at a disadvantage. I can’t apply the most effective techniques, so I can’t expect the most professional results. And it takes *me* to do my homework to learn those techniques. So, dear self, do your homework on sewing needles! Then next Thread the Needle day, you could have a party hat and streamers. And that piece of cheesecake the store didn’t reward you with.

What about you guys? Do you have a particular area in sewing or quilting that just seems daunting to you?

Reference:

Kesser, G. (n.d.) “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills.” Craftsy.com. Retrieved from www.craftsy.com/project/course/piece-patch-quilt-quiltmaking-skills/369

Finding the Fabrics

Finding the Fabrics

Sometimes, little decisions can make big impacts. Details that are minute and all but brushed aside as secondary could really have an effect on a life. Or in this case, a project! I’ve said before on this very blog that quilting is not baking, and it’s true! While I can guesstimate with my baking ingredients, specifics can be a serious deal when partaking in a sewing-related hobby. I’ve already covered that general topic, but for this blog post, I’d like to funnel that idea to one particular concept. That detail is picking out your fabrics for a project that requires more than one design of material.

In the world of sewing, matching isn’t the goal. Complementing is.

Now, I’m not saying that people don’t take this consideration seriously. I’m saying that in a world where you can find all kinds of free patterns online for sewing projects, this step is worth considering just as much as finding that right pattern, and that maybe there’s less help in regards to learning how to select a fabric set than—for instance— learning how to operate your sewing machine. After all, your fabric might not come with instructions or a series of recommendations for other fabrics to blend together into one project!

Gail Kesser helps you pick our your fabrics in her Craftsy series.

Gail Kesser helps you pick our your fabrics in her Craftsy series.

Luckily though, you don’t have to be completely alone in the matter! There are certain options for help—like asking friends, particularly ones who are involved with sewing. Likewise, you can find assistance online. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten in regards to picking out quilting fabrics came from a free class on Craftsy.com. The class was called “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills,” and in it, Gail Kesser—the instructor—has an entire section based on fabric selections called “Choosing Your Fabrics.”

In that lesson, Kesser advises the virtual student to choose a “mommy fabric” (Kesser, n.d., Lesson #3), then “walk it around the store” (Kesser, n.d., Lesson #3) to find fabrics that work well with the initial choice. Honestly, I don’t know that there’s better advice when it comes to putting together an entire quilt—or any other project with multiple types of fabric—but I’d like to expand on the overall idea just a bit. Maybe someone reading this post can look at the mentioned video for help, and possibly get a pointer or two from me as well 🙂

So, here are some thoughts to chew on!

Picking out a series of fabrics to use in one cohesive work isn’t about making sure they match in the traditional sense. The situation isn’t like you’re planning an outfit to wear. When deciding on your clothes for the day, you might consider a list of details to make sure everything works together because the result is supposed to match. In the world of sewing, matching isn’t the goal. Complementing is. That idea of complementing can come in the form of sticking with similar colors, or even embracing an overall theme your pieces all agree with, so to speak. As long as it’s a unified idea or connected imagery throughout, you’re good to go!

The quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday.

The quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday.

Don’t believe me? Even the people who created this quilting-for-kids project my niece got for her birthday knew that sometimes it isn’t about matching. This design is about complementing, or holding on to one specific theme—like the collection of different colors that my niece can put together!

This concept might seem unimportant, but it isn’t since the distinction is so clear. Think of it this way. If you were picking out an outfit for a typical day, you might not go with a floral pattern top and a polka dot bottom, even if both of them are pink. Why? Because while pink might match pink, the designs don’t match. That disconnect isn’t necessarily okay when putting together an outfit, but when sewing? All you need to do is check out a set of pre-cut shapes to find evidence that the same guidelines don’t apply to the hobby of sewing. All in all, it doesn’t matter if your fabrics match like your outfit would. They can vary in design, and even color, so long as they complement one another in some way.

And that aspect of the situation, my friends, leaves a whole lot of room for exploration and gives you plenty of room to make a design that’s all your own. To be truthful, that detail might be one of my favorite things about quilting and sewing. Whatever I come up with, it’s my design, I made it myself, and no one else likely has one like it. That feeling… That’s an okay thing!

This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him.

This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him.

Anyway, a sewer or a quilter should really take charge in this detail, and maybe push it to unique, individual places. As an example, consider the work of art I created on the Paint program that came with my computer. This image is based off of Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks, but I didn’t stop with socks! This fox is my “(Dressed Up) Fox in Socks” that was made by taking a general idea, and putting a hat and red attire on him. It started off simple—just socks from the story—and imagination took it further. Disclaimer: I’m not saying this Paint project is actually impressive—just that it shows how a theme can grow with some thought and creativity!

That’s the kind of pushing I’m referring to when picking out fabrics. Consider what you’re going for, find that beginning fabric, and think outside of the box enough to choose those complementary fabrics to create a breathtaking piece of art. Don’t stay with the easy options all the time! Push yourself, because sometimes the unexpected and the outside-of-the-box things can be a whole lot of fun!

This post might be more centered around quilting, but it could be applied to different areas of sewing (or crocheting, or knitting…) that involve material. A purse that’s going to have more than one fabric, for example, could be planned out with the same guidelines. Any time you’re blending fabrics together, think it through to come up with a cohesive, beautiful work. Complement those designs and colors, or stick to a theme from start to finish. Either way, your work would come out cohesive with your final product being a one-of-a-kind gem that’s beautiful and looks just as put together as a well-planned outfit—just with different rules!

Reference:
Kesser, G. (n.d.) “Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills.” Craftsy.com. Retrieved from www.craftsy.com/project/course/piece-patch-quilt-quiltmaking-skills/369
How to Store Your Fabric Stash

How to Store Your Fabric Stash

This is post one of a three part series on storing your fabric. Post two (how to store your works in progress) and post three (how to store your fabric scraps) are coming soon.

This is post one of a three part series on storing your fabric. Post two (how to store your works in progress) and post three (how to store your fabric scraps) are coming soon.

I keep my deep-storage and heirloom fabrics stored in a bin. Fabrics I'll use soon are simply folded neatly awaiting their use.

I keep my deep-storage and heirloom fabrics stored in a bin. Fabrics I’ll use soon are simply folded neatly awaiting their use.

How do you store your fabric stash? I have seen some of the most creative ways while perusing through Pinterest, everything from tucked in the drawers of a dresser, folded neatly on the top of a bunk bed, or deftly displayed in KITCHEN, yes kitchen, cabinets. Who needs to eat when you have beautiful fabric to sustain your soul anyway?

No matter which way you decide to organize your fabric, you will need to keep several things in mind.

My works in progress are kept in a tall bin and labeled so I know where to easily find them.

My works in progress are kept in a tall bin and labeled so I know where to easily find them.

Store Covered

  1. If you decide to store your fabric in bins, consider using plastic instead of paper, or file boxes, or baskets. Keeping your fabric covered will better protect it but consider using a plastic container with tiny holes (or creating tiny holes) to allow the fabric to breathe and to prevent synthetics from yellowing.
  2. Tape a cedar block inside the container to help prevent moths and other insects from taking up residence.
  3. Store away from sunlight to prevent fabric from fading.

    My lovely stash. I do take the time to dust off the fabric about twice a month.

    My lovely stash. I do take the time to dust off the fabric about twice a month.

Display It

  1. I love the quick access that openly displayed fabric offers. However make sure to keep fabric away from direct sunlight.
  2. Dust! Your fabric will accumulate dust if displayed or left in the open. Keep it tidy with a frequent dusting or airing out.
  3. Keep it clean – little children love to touch and play with fabric and even some adults can’t help but reach up and touch gorgeous fabric. Be aware of where you display your fabric and how frequently it may be handled by people whose fingers could leave it soiled.
Fabric on display via MuyMolon.com.

Fabric on display via MuyMolon.com.

Additional Methods

  1. Color coded – perhaps the most method of organizing is a stash is by color. This is how I do it!
  2. By Designer or Project – some people also keep their stashes stored by Designer or even projects in progress.
  3. By Size – big, medium, little, tiny. Sometimes storing or displaying by size is also helpful.

    Fabric organized and wrapped around Polar Notion's organizers.

    Fabric organized and wrapped around Polar Notion’s organizers.

Standout Idea: Acid-Free Fabric Organizers

I just discovered these puppies and as soon as we move to our new home and I start working on my sewing room, I plan on ordering some to start wrapping and displaying my stash. Unlike fabric-store pieces of cardboard, these organizers are sturdy and acid-free. Storing fabric wrapped around cardboard will eventually discolor your fabric since cardboard is not acid-free.

The sad result of what happens when you use regular cardboard to organize your fabric.

The sad result of what happens when you use regular cardboard to organize your fabric.

I’ve found two brands that offer this acid-free option. Polar Notion’s boards are made from plastic and The Fabric Organizer’s boards are made from an acid-free corrugated cardboard. Both look fantastic.

Think about which product would suit your needs and your stash better.

Think about which product would suit your needs and your stash better.

The larger Polar Notion holds up to 15 yards of wrapped fabric and the smaller one is perfect for fat quarters and smaller pieces of fabric.  The Fabric Organizer’s large size holds up to 10 yards. It is also cheaper than Polar Notions. Think about which product would suit your needs and your stash better.

Do you have a favorite method of storing your fabric? Let us know how you do it in the comments below.

Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in San Diego, 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.

How Many Sewing Machines Do you Need?

How Many Sewing Machines Do you Need?

As a professional tailor and pattern maker in the film and television industry for about 25 years, I’m always on the lookout for a something that can make my job easier and more efficient.

As a professional tailor and pattern maker in the film and television industry for about 25 years, I’m always on the lookout for a something that can make my job easier and more efficient.

A subjective question, perhaps. In the cycling world, of which I am part, the number of bicycles is defined as x + 1 where x = the number of bikes you currently own. I suppose the same formula could be applied to sewing machine ownership. I’m continually fascinated by the scope and design of new machines and confess that, if I could, I would adopt one of virtually every machine I see.

As a professional tailor and pattern maker in the film and television industry for about 25 years, I’m always on the lookout for a something that can make my job easier and more efficient. I, as I suspect most tailors do, have a small collection of machines that I consider my “go-to’s”, that I can’t imagine doing my job without.

1. Juki High Speed Single Needle Straight Lockstitch Industrial Sewing Machine

I have an old model of this machine, the DDL-555-4. The beauty of this machine is that it only does one thing: sew in a straight line. And it does it exceptionally well. Even my old model is smoother and more sensitive than many domestic machines. Five layers of denim or a single layer of chiffon emerge from the presser foot with no complaint and straight, even, stitches. I rarely even have to adjust the tension. And the Juki is fast. The newer models have a speed adjustment on the motors so if you want to start out a little slower you can.

 

Check out the current models, the DDL-8700 and the DDL-5550N and go test drive one if you can. I think you’ll be able to tell right away that it’s a machine that will quickly pay for itself.

2. Brother lightweight Portable Machine

My SC9500, which is similar to the CS-5055, is the most incredible inexpensive machine I’ve come across in my twenty some years of sewing. Not only is it lightweight enough to put in a tote bag and carry on your shoulder but it also sews like a champ. I use it most often for its pre programmed buttonholes and stretch stitching. In my experience, a lot of domestic machines produce less than ideal buttonholes. The Brother never falters: each buttonhole is perfect and akin in quality to those in manufactured clothing (where they use a machine that does nothing but buttonholes).

3. Bernina

Everyone I know in the film business owns at least one Bernina.

 

Everyone I know in the film business owns at least one Bernina. For many, their Bernina is their prime machine, the one they use most often. I’ve yet to find a model, or hear of one, that doesn’t work well. I have an old mechanical model, which is still made in the form of a 1008. The advantages of a mechanical sewing machine lie in its durability and ease of use. I keep my old school Bernina mechanical on the wardrobe truck of whatever show I’m currently working on. I’ve had the same one for twenty years and its never ever failed me – despite years of being knocked around and asked to do impossible things like sewing through three layers of glued leather in an inordinate short amount of time.

4. Reliable Blind Hem Machine

A good blind hemmer that doesn’t snag or pull and is easily adjusted for varying fabric weights is essential to my tailoring work. The Reliable is just that, reliable. The setup is easy and the machine, though technically not a portable, does pack up nicely and can be transported to a work site.

5. Serger

There are so very many sergers to choose from. The first question to answer when choosing which one to buy is: what you will mainly be using the machine for? Do you need something to efficiently finish seams? Or will you be sewing entire garments with it? Do you want a machine that also does a cover stitch?

The automatic rolled hem feature is game changing.

My favorite is the Juki Garnet Line MO-623 1 needle 2/3 thread Serger. The machine is dependable, smooth, easy to thread, and fast. The automatic rolled hem feature is game changing. As opposed to many machines where you need to change the presser foot, with the Juki, you manipulate the fabric with built in fingertip control.