Funky Design Details in Men's Shirts

Funky Design Details in Men’s Shirts

I alter a lot of men’s long sleeve button front shirts at work. We use a variety of brands, each of which usually has its own little signature detail or cut. I can often tell what designer brand a shirt is without having to look at the tag.

I suppose, though, that as a designer at Rag & Bone or Varvatos, or Paul Smith, or the like, you can find yourself hard pressed to come up with some new, unique detail that makes your shirt special. Contrasting fabric on collars and cuffs has been done, funky buttons have been done.

Sleeve and center front plackets in a different fabric: done. Welt breast pockets. Done. Stand collars, unfinished seams, all of it, has been done. At times, I think there isn’t anything new left to do. I was pretty sure I’d seen it all when it came to cool, weird, and even sometimes bizarre design details on mens shirts.

Varvatos shirt showing collar stand unattached from shirt body.

Varvatos shirt showing collar stand unattached from shirt body.

But, John Varvatos proved me wrong. The newest feature on their long sleeve button front shirts is to leave the part of the collar stand that contains the button – you know, the portion that extends past the collar and is, essentially the center front overlap – unattached from the shirt body. Odd, because, if the shirt is buttoned, it really doesn’t look any different. And if the shirt isn’t buttoned, it kind of looks like a rip or tear.

Varvatos shirt with collar stand pinned and ready to sew.

Varvatos shirt with collar stand pinned and ready to sew.

I spent some time last week sewing collar stands to shirt fronts. I do, though, have to give the designers at Varvatos kudos for coming up with something I hadn’t seen before. It also ensures that, in the future when I see that particular detail, I will automatically know it’s a Varvatos shirt. So, good job on the branding. 🙂

To do list

While I’m on the subject, here’s a short list of design (or construction) element quirks that tend to be slightly annoying to film and television customers.

Rag & Bone with their painted white buttons.

Rag & Bone with their painted white buttons.

Rag & Bone and their painted white buttons.

They put the same painted white buttons on most every shirt. The buttons are kind of cool in a shabby chic-look-at-me kind of way but, the last thing you want when filming are shirt buttons that upstage the person wearing the shirt.

I’ve wasted many an afternoon, replacing those buttons with normal, non-descript ones.

Brooks Brothers and the glue they insist on using in their seams.

Taking apart a Brooks Brothers shirt is no quick and easy task – the stitches are miniscule and, as if that’s no enough, they use some sort of glue in their flat felled seams.

Ralph Lauren Polo.

Ralph Lauren Polo.

Ralph Lauren and the polo horse logo.

We’re rarely able to use any piece of clothing on a film or television show with an obvious logo for legal reasons. Most shows need clearance to use anything that clearly advertises a particular brand.

I can tell you that removing those cute little polo horses takes a really long time.

Any shirt that says it’s a ‘slim fit’ yet still has a back pleat.

I think I’ve written before about removing the back pleat (or pleats) in button front shirts. These are the pleats in the shirt body where it joins the yoke. They exist to add a good amount of ease to the shirt through the body. The only thing is, in the world of film and television they just end up looking bulky, a bit messy, and definitely not slimming. So I take them out. If I have the time, I usually take the entire back off and recut it, moving the armseye and side seams in the appropriate amount. If it’s a quick and dirty thing, I just throw some side back darts in and hope there isn’t a close up of the actor’s back.

That’s all I’ve got today though I’m sure there are more. I’ve got to get some sewing done now.

There’s a pile of Varvatos shirts on my table that need the collar stand stitched to the shirt body.

How to Sew Valentines: 33 Project Ideas to Show Your Loved Ones How Much You Care

How to Sew Valentines: 33 Project Ideas to Show Your Loved Ones How Much You Care

Sew valentines this year

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love.

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love.

I challenge you to sew valentines this year to show your love. Anyone can buy trinkets, but making something with love infuses more meaning into even simple gifts. Heartfelt gifts don’t need to be elaborate to mean a great deal.

From simple sewn hearts to labor of love quilts, the web is full of fun ideas that you could use to sew valentines this year. You can make a little something for every person you love. And there is nothing wrong with sharing a little love with people you just like, too. From your sweetheart to your grandma to your neighbor or teacher, everyone who you bless with a handmade gift will appreciate that you spent time making something just for them.

Sew valentines: my simple ideas

I’ll start by sharing three simple ideas of my own that I’m using this year to sew valentines for my family and friends, including an easy way to add a homemade touch to candy I’ll pick up at the store.

Felt or fleece hearts

These couldn’t be simpler to make. Just draw a heart pattern on paper, cut out, and pin to two layers of fleece or felt. Cut these out, then sew them with right sides together, leaving an opening for turning. Stuff, and then sew the opening closed. I’m stuffing them with dried lavender flowers to make simple sachets for my friends. I once made a pair of these and filled them with baking soda to stuff in my gym shoes, and this worked well to eliminate odor. You could also use lentils and make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

You could also use lentils & make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

You could also use lentils & make a set of heart bean bags for a game for your kids.

Valentine novelty fabric pillowcases

There is nothing easier to make from a yard of cute fabric than a pillowcase. To make one, hem across one long side. Then fold the fabric widthwise, with right sides together, and sew or serge the other two sides. Turn right side out. That’s it! Of course, you can dress these up with decorative trim. But choose a cute enough fabric and there’s no need to dress it up further.

Attach trim after hemming, before sewing together.

Attach trim after hemming, before sewing together.

Simple gift bags

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags to fill with chocolates or other candy from the store. Or for children, include dollar store trinkets such as small toys. Tie with a ribbon. You could amend the directions slightly to make drawstring bags instead.

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags.

Use the pillowcase instructions above in miniature form to create simple gift bags.

I’ll also be making some projects that I have collected from all over the web. Follow these links to find the perfect projects to sew valentines for everyone that you love:

Sew valentines: more easy ideas

I might make one for myself!

I might make one for myself!

  • Fabric Heart Bookmarks: Here is another project so easy that you can whip up several in mere minutes. This is the kind of sweet gift that most anyone could use. I might make one for myself!
  • Felt Heart Ornament and Garland: I plan to make a couple of these ornaments to share as gifts, and the garland for my house.
  • Warm Heart Coffee Cozy: Here is another simple idea that makes a nice gift for most anyone.
Warm heart coffee cozy.

Warm heart coffee cozy.

Sew valentines: cards

Here’s how to incorporate your love for sewing by hand while making paper cards.

Here’s how to incorporate your love for sewing by hand while making paper cards.

Sew valentines: a game and a toy

There are lots of ideas for softies to sew, but none are as cute as this sweetie.

There are lots of ideas for softies to sew, but none are as cute as this sweetie.

Sew valentines: bags and purses

This change purse includes a key ring.

This change purse includes a key ring.

Sew valentines: pillows

This pattern features reverse appliqué.

This pattern features reverse appliqué.

Sew valentines: quilts

Valentine quilt roundup.

Valentine quilt roundup.

Whichever projects you choose, I hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day!

The Joy of Quilting

The Joy of Quilting

You remember that cookbook “The Joy of Cooking”? It was ubiquitous when I was growing up. Full of stuff we’d never eat today. Since I was a kid, for me, the joy of cooking was really in the eating…My dad would take a recipe from that cookbook, modify it in some way and serve up the tastiest meals.

Similarly, for me the joy of quilting is in the using. I’m not a quilter, but I love the results of someone who is. I prefer projects that are quicker and involved bigger pieces. I’m not into small details…but I appreciate the skill and expertise of those who are.

The Joy of Quilting

Your imagination is the limit

What amazes me about quilting is the amazing patterns. Everything from Acorn to Zig-Zag and everything in between. I find it fascinating that using the same pattern, but different fabrics can generate such different, yet similar, quilts. Each one is personalized and special.

To me, quilting harkens back to a previous era…to our roots. And that fact makes me wish I could get into it the same way I have knitting or spinning yarn. I appreciate modern conveniences like electricity and indoor plumbing, but have always felt pulled to master more basic skills.

Family tree

Another thing I love about quilting, and quilts in general, is that they can capture and carry a personal or family history. They tell a story. By using blocks made from worn clothing or other well-loved items or new fabrics that represent something, quilts become a means of carrying history forward.

Quilts are works of art. I think most people think of them as something to put on a bed and a way to keep warm. That’s true, but they’re also works of art. If a quilt is used to capture a story or family history, a better display might be hanging on a wall or displaying on a rack. This way, they preserve the story and act as a conversation starter so the story can be shared.

I may not be a quilter, but I love quilts. The sense of history and a hint of romance. I find them inspiring and feel they connect us to our roots, What’s your joy of quilting?

Fabric Trend: Cats and Things Cats Love

Fabric Trend: Cats and Things Cats Love

Galaxy Cat fabric by Timeless Treasures

Galaxy Cat fabric by Timeless Treasures

Last October, I highlighted three lines of cat fabric for you including From Porto with Love, Cat Lady, and Meow or Never.

I should be honest however, and not call cat fabric a trend because our love for cats will never go away. To prove this, here are more cat fabric lines for you, including fabrics with things cats love.

Maker Maker by Andover Fabrics

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow. Along with their coordinating cat scratches.

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow.

From Andover Fabrics, you’ll find cats in blue, black and yellow.

Flower Shop by Alexia Marcelle Abegg

Inspired by walks through Mexico’s outdoor flower markets, Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Flower Shop brings you cats amongst flowers, bow ties, thistle, and cats with foxes, elephants & donkeys.

Smarty Cats by Maria Carluccio

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics and traditional cats. You’ve got cats on books, playful cats, smarty cats, and mice, string and balls.

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics & traditional cats.

Maria Carluccio’s Smarty Cats fabric line is for the true lover of traditional fabrics & traditional cats.

Whisper by Dear Stella and Riley Blake’s Double Gauze

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly. Add a dash of Dear Stella with Riley Blake and you have the quilting cottons of Dear Stella on the top row in cats, mice, and dandelions, and the double gauze dreaminess of Riley Blake, featuring delicate cat, deer, and panda faces, with tiny Xs and Os and I Love You’s.

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly.

These two fabric lines seem to coordinate seamlessly.

Tabby Road by Tula Pink

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles. This psychedelic fabric line will arrive in most stores by March and perfectly blends your feline friends with the some of the trippiest nods to Abbey Road. Fabric names include: Tangerine, Strawberry Fields, Fur ball, Lucy, Cat Snacks, Blue Bird and Disco Kitty.

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles.

Tula Pink takes their coolness to the next level by combining cats + The Beatles.

Pura Vida by Hawthorne Threads

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle and features wild cats and their surroundings.

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle & features wild cats.

Hawthorne Threads Pura Vida line is reminiscent of a Central American jungle & features wild cats.

Hemma by Lotta Jansdotter

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma, combines cat faces, tulips, lemons, half-moons, and clean & classic colors to give you a modern twist on cat fabric.

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma.

For the lovers of all things Scandinavian, Lotta Jansdotter fabric line, Hemma.

Do you have any cat fabric lines you love? Please share them with us 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.
Pressing: Side or Open?

Pressing: Side or Open?

Once upon a time, I had an extended conversation (argument?) with a friend as we — as adults — threw all of our cards on the table in regard to the matter of who had it worse: Pluto or Goofy.

The point of referencing this conversation is that sometimes some of the smallest details can be points of major debate, and that idea is as true in the sewing world as it is for preferred cartoon characters. For instance, pressing your seams while sewing is a common thing, but there are two methods that are seemingly at odds among seam-pressers: side pressing and open pressing. It’s a small detail, but both sides have very real support! Don’t believe me? Do some Googling!

Some of the smallest details can be points of major debate.

Some of the smallest details can be points of major debate.

I’m not sure I personally lean too heavily in either direction, so let’s go through them and see if we can come up with a winning method! The competition will be based on a point-gained system, and it will include the understood sewing project of a quilt for reference. Sound good? Then let’s go!

Let us begin

How about we start with the to-the-side method?

How about we start with the to-the-side method?

How about we start with the to-the-side method? One advantage would be that it’s easier to push the material to a single side for ironing than to force the pieces apart and iron openly. That’s something that, to me, a general consideration of the matter would support. You don’t have to hold both pieces of fabric in separate places like you might with the open method, so one point for side pressing!

Another benefit would be that, as a certain source pointed out, open pressing would logically weaken your product. With that technique, you would have an easier time seeing your stitches after the pressing because there isn’t that barrier of fabric to snuggly nestle them. Stitches are more protected with material covering them, and with the effort you put into your quilt, simple things to keep it intact are good! So, two points for the to-the-side notion!

One nice aspect about pressing to the sides is once you start pinning it's much simpler than pinning fabric pressed in the open fashion.

One nice aspect about pressing to the sides is once you start pinning it’s much simpler than pinning fabric pressed in the open fashion.

One other aspect about pressing to the sides is that, should you need to pin things following the pressing, doing so is much simpler than if you attempt it once it’s been pressed in the open fashion. Since I’ve been known to take a straight pin to the finger anyway, this advantage seems very tempting! Side pressing 3, open pressing 0!

Let’s open up

The open method isn’t altogether a bad idea.

The open method isn’t altogether a bad idea.

But, then again, the open method isn’t altogether a bad idea. For one thing, you don’t have to concern yourself with what direction you’re pressing your material. There’s no need to go back and see how you pressed a nearby seam because you can just assume it was open, like the rest. The uniformity is already there without having to come up with a pattern. Point one for the open strategy, then!

Another detail worth mentioning about this open approach is that you might find that you have a less lumpy final product. Again, this is logical. If you press your material to the right, then on the right, you have both sides of the seam and the fabric it’s laying against. That situation makes for three layers of fabric on the right for every pressed seam (not including batting and backing) while the left side — the one you pressed away from — would only have one. And that’s not counting places where your seams would overlap with other seams. Now, of course, the open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it. Still, for the areas where those seams would be present, having two pieces of material on one side and two on the other would be a more balanced situation and could lead to a smoother quilt (though as one source pointed out, “smooth” might not be your goal). So, one more point for this method!

The open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it.

The open approach doesn’t make everything equal across the quilt as not every piece of overlying material would have a seam pressed behind it.

An additional benefit of open pressing is that it’s more convenient when dealing with different colors of fabric, particularly if you’re pairing a dark one with a light one. If you press them to the side, there’s the chance that you’ll end up seeing darker fabric through a lighter one if you don’t plan and choose the correct side to press to. If you’re pressing them openly though, each color could be behind its own pattern, potentially hiding your dark fabric behind the same type of dark fabric. Seeing as how noticing a different pattern through the top of your quilt might not be aesthetically pleasing, I think the open method gets one more point in this contest!

And the winner is…

That makes the score three-to-three. So, what’s the tiebreaker?

Preference! I can toss all kinds of facts and details at you, but in the end, your quilt is, in fact, yours! Work with what makes you feel the most comfortable for these aspects. For some people, habit might lead the way. For others, it might be a logical deduction of what seems best. In the end though, there’s not an across-the-board right or wrong answer to this dilemma. Either/or, sometimes this one and sometimes that one… Sewing is a world of opportunity, and this small factor is one of the many to choose from!

Pretty Little Things

Pretty Little Things

I was thinking about all the things you can make with fabric. Depending on your sewing skills and your motivation, you could make just about anything your heart desires.

Let’s see. My first sewn article was a red twill skirt in high school. My efforts had very good intentions, but I remember getting frustrated when I could never use the “best” sewing machine in the classroom. I had to rush to finish it so the teacher gave me a “C” grade on it. I couldn’t believe I put the zipper in the back just perfectly. (I’m still scared of zippers, by the way). But the hem of the skirt was about 3 inches in the back and maybe and 1 inch in the front, and very irregular. That was long before the days of the high-low hem which arrived on the scene by stylish fashion designers in the twenty-first century. Oh my, I’m dating myself now.

I learned it from watching you

I watched my Mom sew clothes for me as child, so when I got off on my own, I asked my Dad for a sewing machine. I picked one out from Sears, a basic machine with a couple of stitches. I made a knit T shirt out of multi-striped material and fell in love with stretch fabrics.

My dad called it my “$150.00 T-shirt.” I knew he was thinking I would be done with sewing after finishing that comfy, wearable T-shirt. I proved him wrong.

I went on to make dresses, suits with vests, skirts with zippers, a strapless bathing suit, and other clothes that were worn with pride when I thought, “I did this- I made this jacket”.

So fast forward today, after several years of non-sewing, I have found my passion again with other types of articles. The last couple years, I have made quilts, bed runners, napkins, baby articles and even Korean Quilting called “Pojagi”.

And now for something completely different

Today, I want to share with you my latest project. First off, I love the Victorian Era.

Laces, satins, silks and velvet. I have accumulated many boxes of vintage lace, ribbons, and trims and struggle to find ways to use them. So, I am trying to bring back something that were used by ladies of old. It is something that is considered vintage, or antique, but I still feel the idea is a good one. Many stores carry things similar like paper envelopes filled with lavender seeds, or other dried herbs, but I wanted to design something that was original to appeal to women who love frilly little things like me.

When I made these, I thought the Mother of the Bride & Groom may need the hankies to wipe away their tears during the wedding ceremony!

When I made these, I thought the Mother of the Bride & Groom may need the hankies to wipe away their tears during the wedding ceremony!

So, I designed a Handkerchief Sachet. The idea is to spray the handmade handkerchief with your favorite cologne or perfume, or fragrance oils. Place it in dresser drawers, on the bath counter top, or even your handbag, so you can enjoy your favorite scent as aromatherapy.

I thought these could be used as a keepsake bag for a special piece of jewelry, a lock of baby’s first haircut, or just a place for a tube of lipstick in your handbag. Just a little frill to enjoy & remember a special time or event.

I thought these could be used as a keepsake bag for a special piece of jewelry, a lock of baby’s first haircut, or just a place for a tube of lipstick in your handbag. Just a little frill to enjoy & remember a special time or event.

The last picture is the third set of sachets I made with 5” squares, lace, silk ribbon, and some metal vintage ornaments. These are stuffed with eco-friendly snow filling and will absorb your desired scent. Just respray when the scent fades and enjoy!

The last picture is the third set of sachets I made with 5” squares, lace, silk ribbon, & some metal vintage ornaments.

The last picture is the third set of sachets I made with 5” squares, lace, silk ribbon, & some metal vintage ornaments.

Whereas, the handkerchief can be washed if necessary if a change of scent is desired, these can also be utilized as a pin cushion in your sewing room. Who knows, you may fall in love with Victorian Vintage as I did.

All seams were sewn by machine except for adding flowers and ribbon, these items can be found at NaturaDomani on Etsy.
Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing Room Organizing: The Rules

Sewing room organizing can be a constant battle. That’s because creative folks make lots of things, including what my dear calls “creative explosions.” I just call these big messes. You know what I mean: quilt trimmings & other scraps on the floor, piles of fabric or other supplies on the table, idea books scattered about, bins & boxes pulled out with their contents askew and similar messes.

I battled this kind of mess for years. But I seem to have finally developed the skill of keeping order in my creative room. For example, the days between Christmas and New Year have historically been sewing room organizing time for me. But last year after Christmas, I was surprised when I realized I didn’t have any sewing room organizing to do. In years past, I have worked busily making gifts, moving from one project to the next, and letting messes pile up around me until the holiday passed.

I can’t stand to do that anymore. Instead, I clean up thoroughly after every project, before moving to the next. Since learning to do this, and by vigilantly following a few other rules that I have discovered which help to ensure order, I have enjoyed my creative pursuits more than ever before. I think these sewing room organizing rules will help you, too, if you haven’t discovered them for yourself yet.

Whether you need to clean up after your own creative explosions or you want to prevent their occurrence in the first place, keep these rules in mind.

Sewing room organizing rule one: machines first

It might not sound like sewing room organizing, but the very first thing to do is to give all of your machines a thorough cleaning. This is the most important task in cleaning up messes in the sewing room.

If your floor is littered with threads and clippings, I guarantee your machines have similar build-up inside. And continuing to sew with a dirty machine will cause it to break! So get your chosen brush and sweep and clean every machine in your room really well.

It's easy to miss a spot.

It’s easy to miss a spot.

Keeping machines clean

For sewing machines, remove the bobbin casings and take particular care in cleaning out inside and behind these. For sergers, sweep out every nook and cranny. When you think you’ve gotten it clean, sweep it out again. It’s easy to miss multiple spots. You can spend a lot of time sweeping out a serger repeatedly, and still not get it completely clean. Unless you have a magic tool, that is. The best thing you can buy to ensure a longer life for your machines is a tiny vacuum attachment to help get them really clean.

Always cover your machines to prevent unnecessary build up of dirt or dust when these are not in use. If your machine did not come with a hardcover, you can sew a pretty one yourself.

After cleaning, oil your mechanical-only machines according to their user manuals.  Don’t oil your computerized or electronic machines at home; take them to Sewing Machines Plus or your local repair shop for yearly maintenance.  Go ahead and take them in now so this will be done. If you cannot be without them right now, schedule this on your calendar to be handled as soon as possible. If you neglect your machine maintenance you will regret it. For future reference, a good plan to avoid being without your machines when you need them is to send them out for maintenance while you are on vacation.

Sewing room organizing rules 2 & 3:

Have ample workspaces

Keep them clear

After your machines, the most important things to consider in sewing room organizing are your workspaces. It is not possible to work efficiently without ample space.  If you are using more than one machine, such as a sewing machine, a serger and a coverstitch or embroidery machine, you need enough space to have them all set up. You also need table space for cutting and layout.

It is best to have the largest table that will comfortably fit in your room in order to provide ample space for working. I have a kitchen table in my room that I keep clear for cutting, and separate desks for my machines. I reconfigure machine placement depending on the project, however. When I am working on a bed sized quilt, I place my machine on the big table, so it can support the quilt. Having multiple workstations enables flexibility.

If your sewing room lacks enough space to house such a large table, Sewing Machines Plus has an excellent option for you to consider. The Arrow Pixie cutting table doesn’t take up much space when folded compactly, but opens to provide table space for both cutting and sewing. It even has measurement guides and comes with a cutting board. It’s super cute, too.

Keep tables clear!

Ample work space will do you no good if they are covered with unfinished projects, supplies, or irrelevant items. My favorite rule for making sure that my creative space stays organized and is always ready for working is to keep all work spaces clear. I do not allow myself to store any items on top of my table top or desks, other than machines, of course. But because I reconfigure my machine placement according to what I am working on, I prefer to store most of them, covered, on shelves.

This way, you can keep your table and desks clean and shining, waiting for you to make something new whenever it suits you.

Other rules to remember

There are several other rules that have helped me to keep my sewing room neat and organized. Following these rules will help to keep your room working well for you, too.

  • You can’t organize clutter; keep unnecessary items out of your room.
  • Be creative with storage. For example, to maximize working space in my sewing room, I use an antique wardrobe and chest of drawers in the next room. The beauty of these storage pieces blends nicely with my family room décor. These happily hold my fabric, trims and notions, and other less often used items, such as my looms. Here are some DIY projects for creative storage solutions which will work inside the sewing room.
  • Keep like things together. Rather than storing tools all over the place, use a bin or other storage solution to keep these neatly together. The same goes for thread, notions, and etc.
  • Let the fabric live at the store. I am no longer tempted by fabric clearance sales and refuse to buy fabric to stash. I have learned that stashed fabric steals time, space, and money, so I do not buy any without a particular project in mind. Pretty quilter cottons are the only exception I make to this rule, as I know for sure that I will put these to use. Be a savvy shopper and take advantage of sales for stocking items you must have and will use. For example, I only buy white and neutral thread, and also cotton batting, when it is on sale.
  • Finish what you start. It is easy to get excited about new projects, but for keeping order, it is much more sensible to complete each project before starting another.

Do you have any other useful rules for keeping order in your sewing room? If you do, please add a comment and share it with us.

How to Make a Hidden Button Placket

How to Make a Hidden Button Placket

Last week, I waxed on about all the endearing qualities of my Industrial Juki straight stitch machine and I promised that, next, I’d write a little bit about my other favorite sewing machine, a vintage tan and white Singer 401K.

But then, this week at work, I spent a couple days making women’s button front cotton shirts for the character of Zapata on Blindspot. I’ve made her quite a few shirts over the course of this season. I created the pattern from her measurements and referencing how she liked the fit of a few off the rack shirts. She doesn’t fit into any brand without altering (she has a very small waist but is still curvy) so the costume designer and I decided we might as well make custom shirts for her.

So far it seems to be turning out quite well:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4474344/mediaviewer/rm2804286976

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4474344/mediaviewer/rm3758241792

Shirt making

I am not, by any means, a master shirt-maker (those do exist like the man who wrote Shirtmaking, developing skills for fine sewing). His name is David Page Coffin and he is definitely a shirt-making master. His book is filled with many helpful tips and suggestions. I reference it now mainly for the sleeve placket instructions and pattern. For some reason, no matter how many times I make a shirt, I always need a little reminder as to which way to begin a proper sleeve placket attachment.

Sleeve placket instructions from David Page Coffin’s book.

Sleeve placket instructions from David Page Coffin’s book.

Never feel bad if you need to look something up, especially if it’s a technique you don’t do on a regular basis. There are always new things to learn (or remember).

Concealed buttonhole placket

Another element of shirt making that took me awhile to be able to do without looking up a reference picture was making a concealed buttonhole placket. I’ve finally got it etched in my brain though – at least I think so.

The first step is to decide how wide you want to finished placket to be. I use an inch (1″) for ladies’ shirts but some people do an inch and ¼ (1 ¼”) or an inch and ½ (1 ½”).

Next mark out your fold lines on your pattern or fabric. You’ll need an extra four to six inches past the center fold/finish line.

Fold lines marked a numbered on pattern piece.

Fold lines marked a numbered on pattern piece.

Starting out from the center fold line, measure out ½” and draw a parallel line. This is the seam allowance line. Many commercial patterns use 5/8″ as a standard seam allowance so if you’re adding a hidden placket to a store bought pattern, check to see what they’ve used and do the same.

Then draw three more lines, each 1″ apart. Finally, mark your cutting line ½” from the last line (or whatever seam allowance you’re using).

To help explain and keep track of your folds, number your lines starting with the outermost one: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Press lines 1 and 2, wrong sides together. This is the part that will get the buttonholes. You can mark and do them now or, as I usually do, you can wait until you’ve got everything pressed and secured. I also press the 1/2″ outer seam allowance but do not leave it folded under – it’ll get caught inside the seam once you’re done.

Almost there

Fold along lines 1 and 2.

Fold along lines 1 and 2.

Next, accordion fold the remaining fabric. Fold along line 3, right sides together, then line 4, wrong sides together. Press.

Once you’ve done this, open the placket up so that its double wide with the seam allowance toward the front edge of the shirt. Topstitch along line 3 (which will be 1″ or however wide your placket is from the fold center fold line).

Open the placket up to topstitch.

Open the placket up to topstitch.

Once you’ve done your button holes, you’ll need to sew small hand tacks in between each hole to keep the placket from opening up (and essentially defeating its purpose of being hidden).

Voila!

Shirt almost finished in dress form.

Shirt almost finished in dress form.

And next week, unless something more interesting comes up, I’ll continue on with my favorite sewing machine ruminations.

Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

One of the things I love best about sewing as opposed to some of my other creative ventures is that I can do it any time of year. In the fall and winter, I can make blankets, jackets and other warm items. During the spring and summer months, I can make cute skirts and dresses and flowy decorative items. The different material weights and textures means it’s never too hot or too cold to sew! Here are some of my favorite projects for each season.

Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

Winter

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than lighting a fire and sewing something with warm, cuddly fabric.

Flannel Blanket

I absolutely adore flannel. It’s always warm and gets softer with each washing. This cozy blanket is easy to do and can be made in any size you like. We’re big on throw blankets in this house, so that’s what I did. Because flannel is available in so many colors and patterns, it’s easy to find something that will match your home and your personal style.

Dinosaur Hoodie

The challenge with winter is that kids are stuck inside. This sewing project will keep you warm and provide them with hours of imaginative play. Can you say “roooarrrr!”? Your kids will love playing dinosaur with this hoodie. Make a couple of the neighbor kids too and have a dino party!

Spring

Spring is a time of renewal. The weather warms up and life starts to return to the great outdoors. It’s still a bit cool to go out and enjoy it without a light cover up and there can be days on end of rain keeping you indoors. That’s where these sewing projects come in!

Napkins

Spring is often a time when we entertain more. We can open the windows and doors and guests can flow in and out without tracking snow, ice and dirt. Depending on the occasion, setting a pretty table can be part of the deal as hostess. Check out these colorful napkins. They’re perfect for spring and summer and a conversation starter too!

Picnic Blanket

It might be a bit cool yet to have a picnic, but it’s never too early to plan for one. This adorable picnic blanket is a great spring sewing project. While you’re inside working on it watching birds and other life return to your yard, you can daydream about that first picnic of the year. Won’t it be great with this new blanket?

Summer

Summer is all about hot days, trips to the beach and keeping cool. You may not be spending too much time with your sewing machine, but that’s okay. These quick projects won’t get you overheated – instead they’ll help you keep cool once they’re done.

Towel Wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of getting out of the pool or ocean having to struggle with my towel. This fabulous towel wrap means I can keep my hands free for a drink and a book while still staying dry. Even better – it upcycles towels that might otherwise get tossed.

Wine Bag

To go with that lovely picnic blanket you made during the spring, you need a wine bag to tote your bottle for that elegant picnic. You could also use it as a wine gift bag if you need to bring a gift to a house party. It works up quickly and can be made for any style you can imagine.

Fall

I love fall! The changing leaves, the crisp air and the smell. It’s somehow romantic in a way. While I’m going to spend as much time outdoors as I can, there are some great fall sewing projects for those dreary fall days when I can’t get out.

Pillow

I love this! Making this pillow means I can bring some of the fall colors inside while using up some of my scrap stash. Don’t have all the colors? No problem! Remnants are cheap and easy to find in every color and pattern you’ll need.

Coasters

As much as I love fall, I dislike rings on the coffee and end tables as strongly. These adorable leaf coasters solve the problem while bringing all my favorite fall colors into the décor. I personally went for more realistic fabric colors, but you can do whatever you like.

What are some of your favorite seasonal sewing projects?

Different Types of Thread and When to Use Them

Different Types of Thread and When to Use Them

Have you ever gone to the fabric store and been overwhelmed looking at the vast assortment of thread for sale? If so, then fear not, for I will help to break down the mystery of thread and how to use it in all its various types.

To start, consider where you are going to store your thread. I’m a highly visual person and I like to see what I have on hand. I also find looking at thread to sometimes motivate me or inspires me to begin on new projects. I created this thread display in my sewing room using Ikea picture frame shelves (Ikea Ribba) and I added small nails to hang my bobbins by the corresponding color of thread.

I added small nails to hang my bobbins by the corresponding color of thread.

I added small nails to hang my bobbins by the corresponding color of thread.

I live in a rural area, three hours from the nearest Joann Fabrics. Because of that I keep an Aurifil Thread Color Card so I can easily order the exact shade of thread I need. It also looks beautiful too, no?

Thread Weight

When choosing thread, consider the thread weight. A quick breakdown of Aurifil’s brand thread weights (and their many great brands of thread, including Guterman and Coats & Clark) looks like this:

12wt: Use it for sashiko & red work stitchery. This is the thickest thread in the Mako’ range.

28wt: It is strong enough to withstand the stress of hand quilting without needing to be glazed or waxed.

40wt: Favorite thread for machine quilting and all-purpose sewing. A little heavier to show off the quilting stitches.

50wt: Quilters love it for its piecing and quilting. A staple for every sewing studio.

80wt: This is the finest Egyptian cotton, for use by hand or machine. Your new ‘go to’ thread for applique and much more.

~ Thread descriptions from Hawthorne Threads

Buying at a fabric store is actually a little easier than sussing things out online because they divide thread into sections so you can quickly scan for ‘quilting’ or ‘embroidery’ or ‘heavy duty/jeans.’

I keep my standard, quilting cotton weight threads organized by ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

I keep my standard, quilting cotton weight threads organized by ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

ROYGBIV: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

I also keep my neutrals and browns organized by gradient.

I keep my neutrals & browns organized by gradient.

I keep my neutrals & browns organized by gradient.

Buying a lot of shades of one color can greatly help when working on projects with a ton of variation in the same tone, like in this quilt I recently finished. I used five different shades of brown and black to finish the horse.

 

Utility/Novelty Threads

These are threads you reach for when you need to pull out the big guns or you are just doing something different. I use some of these heavy weight threads for upholstery, corduroy, vinyl, or very thick or unique fabrics.

I use some of these heavy weight threads for upholstery, corduroy, vinyl, or very thick or unique fabrics.

I use some of these heavy weight threads for upholstery, corduroy, vinyl, or very thick or unique fabrics.

This is my tub of very heavy duty threads. I use them on marine projects and with my industrial sewing machine.

This is my tub of very heavy duty threads.

This is my tub of very heavy duty threads.

Variegated Thread

I saved these threads for last because they are my favorite. If you haven’t tried sewing with them yet, I encourage you to start today. The richness of their color variation is an absolute delight to the eye and often can take your projects to a whole other level.

I used two spools of variegated thread on this quilt. The blue/rainbow you can see here.

The blue/rainbow you can see here.

The blue/rainbow you can see here.

And the gorgeous bright yellow here.

You can see the gorgeous bright yellow here.

You can see the gorgeous bright yellow here.

Of course, with different threads you will need different needles, but I’ll save the topic of needles sizes and shapes for another post. What are your favorite types of threads? 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.