My Little Pony Blankets and Pillows

My Little Pony Blankets and Pillows

These are my daughters’ favorite toys.

These are my daughters’ favorite toys.

These are my daughters’ favorite toys. These ladies and gents can be found all around our house, in all manner of adventures. Sometimes, they even go to sleep. The problem with this was that my youngest was using tissues to make blankets and pillows for them. All of them. Every day. That’s a lot of tissues.

Enter my layer cake stash. ‘Layer cake’ means a precut stack of fabric cut in 10” x 10” squares. I asked my daughter to look and find a selection of fabrics she liked and I turned them into blankets and pillows for her My Little Pony and tiny doll friends.

Enter my layer cake stash.

Enter my layer cake stash.

Downton Abbey

She picked several pieces from my Downton Abbey collection (yes, they have Downton Abbey-themed fabric and yes, I bought some!) I made her eight reversible blankets. This was a fun chance to use the variety of decorative stitches on my machine. The decorative stitches available on modern sewing machines is incredible. SewingMachinesPlus.com has a wide assortment you can view here: http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/computerized-sewing-machines.php

She picked several pieces from my Downton Abbey collection.

She picked several pieces from my Downton Abbey collection.

Next I made small and large-sized pillows. She had asked for ‘big’ pillows so some of her ponies could go to sleep together. So sweet!

Nap time

Next I made small & large-sized pillows.

Next I made small & large-sized pillows.

I left an opening in each piece to stuff them and cut the batting to size.

 

Here you see how they got put into action. My youngest, especially, was thrilled.

Here you see how they got put into action.

Here you see how they got put into action.

The big pillows and the little pillows are used equally. So are some squares of felt I keep on hand for crafting.

The big pillows & the little pillows are used equally.

The big pillows & the little pillows are used equally.

Even ponies need their beauty rest.

Even ponies need their beauty rest.

Even ponies need their beauty rest.

These handmade blankets and pillows have been used for all kinds of imaginative play, including as rivers and lakes in Lego houses they’ve built.

These handmade blankets & pillows have been used for all kinds of imaginative play.

These handmade blankets & pillows have been used for all kinds of imaginative play.

What kind of handmade items have you sewn to supplement your children’s or grandchildren’s toy supply? Let us know in comments!

What kind of handmade items have you sewn to supplement your children’s or grandchildren’s toy supply?

What kind of handmade items have you sewn to supplement your children’s or grandchildren’s toy supply?

———————————————————————————–
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.
Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

Tell-Tale Traits of a Primitive Quilt

As I step further into the world of sewing, I find that there’s plenty of information out there that I didn’t even know to look for. My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, and I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work. I’d love to have a patchwork purse, patchwork clothing, patchwork pillows…

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

My primary focus in sewing has been patchwork designs, & I definitely continue to hold a passion in regard to that style of work.

But I’m not sure I fully realized how many other avenues there are to plan out a quilt before I started looking, and those are details that can be interesting finds! Some of them, though, require a bit of an explanation to truly understand what a quilt of that nature is, and this post will explore one of those types in particular.

Once upon a time

I was in a social media marketing program where, for two of the classes, I had to keep a blog for a business. For one course, I used my author career as the business. For the other, I created a could-someday-be-real quilt company. It was fine, by the way, for the company to not actually be real in the current world!

The idea was that we were to explore marketing concepts through the blog and end up with a marketing plan — at least generally — by the end of the semester. During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me. At the time, I focused mostly on the social media presence of one particular company, but I find myself now thinking on what exactly a primitive quilt is.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

During that quilt-company semester, I came across the idea of a primitive quilt, which was a fairly new phrase to me.

If I claim to be quilter, after all, it might help to know the basic terminology!

After research and consideration of a number of quilts with the label of “primitive,” I offer you a number of details that help to make a primitive quilt… Well, primitive! Note: These are commonalities — not necessarily requirements through and through!

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

A primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red & dark blue can make appearances.

Basic Coloring

By this, I don’t mean a color-equivalent to no-artificial-flavoring! I mean that the colors are typically more straightforward than neon oranges and vivid pinks. Instead, a primitive quilt will make use of neutral colors, though things like dark red and dark blue can make appearances. These quilts often employ the colors that you might think of when words like “rustic” come to mind — which rationalizes why red and blue are used in regard to red barns and blue skies. In the end, if you plan on making a primitive quilt, you might want to keep the lime green fabric stored away for another project!

Simple Fabric Patterns

Like the coloring, the fabrics, too, are less elaborate than what might be common for a more vividly styled work. Typically, patterns — rather than fabrics — steal the focus in primitive quilts, so no fabric should be so busy or stand-out that it takes attention above and beyond the level of the quilt pattern as a whole. For this, solid colors or very simple patterns on your fabric are your best bet for forming your primitive quilt.

Basic Shapes

Don’t fancy it up!

Don’t fancy it up!

While the overall quilt might have a remarkably interesting visual in regard to its structure, the pieces of fabric that make up that visual are often based on the simplest of designs, like triangles, squares, and rectangles. This doesn’t mean that only geometric shapes can be used for your quilt though! Other shapes can come into play, but make sure to keep them simple to provide that outdated appearance that’s so synonymous with the rustic, primitive design. Think to yourself what the simplest method of delivering an object or shape is — don’t fancy it up!—and you could have the right look!

Empty space

The patterns for primitive quilts are structured, but those empty spaces between the distinct pattern formations can be just as organized. Now, this isn’t necessarily the case for every quilt! It’s not unheard of though for darker, geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece. It creates an overall repetition to the quilt, and the result is an almost soothing effect in that the contrast softens the appearance to something calming and steady. As I said, this tactic might be more pronounced in some primitive quilts than others, but don’t be shocked if you notice it fairly often for quilts of this style.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

Geometric patterns of multiple fabrics to be separated by pieces of lighter fabric that are larger than any individual dark piece.

If you keep these things in mind, you’re on your way to planning a primitive quilt!


References:
Alcorn, J. (2014, September 10). What Is Primitive Home Decor? Retrieved from: https://www.primitivestarquiltshop.com/blogs/quilt-shop-gathering-place/24406593-what-is-primitive-home-decor
Craftsy. (2017, April 24). Can You Spot a Primitive Quilt? Retrieved from https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2017/04/primitive-fabric/
How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

How to Sew Easy Shorts in Just 10 Minutes

You really can sew easy shorts in ten minutes. I made pairs for two of my boys and a pair for myself in half an hour, and this included stops for elastic fitting and rewinding a bobbin.

Sew Easy Shorts

For kids, sew easy shorts in 10 minutes using bandanas

Easy bandana shorts are a super quick and simple way to make cute shorts for kids.

I made these with polyester, rather than cotton, bandanas. I am collecting cotton bandanas for another project and I accidentally bought a couple that turned out to be poly.

It occurred to me that these will dry quickly and so make perfect yard shorts for my boys who are in and out of the garden sprinkler this time of year.

I’ve made these from cotton bandanas before and they have been summer favorites for all my children. They wear them so much that the cotton ones don’t last through too many seasons. So it was time for me to whip up a couple more.

You can use bandanas to make shorts to fit most any size child. Or you can make bandana pants for a baby or toddler. Here’s how to make them:

Supplies:

  • Two bandanas
  • Elastic for waist
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors

Step one to sew easy shorts: measure

The key measurements you need are the child’s waist and rise. To measure rise, run the measuring tape from the waist, between the legs, to the back waist.

I like to make bandana shorts like jams using the full bandana and not measure inseam or length. If you’d like to hem your child’s pants to a specific length, you are welcome to take the leg measurements. Then you could trim the bandana from the top rather than hemming the legs. That’s what I’d do if I wanted to shorten these.

Sew easy shorts step two: cut

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically. You are going to cut out a J shaped piece from the top edges. Determine how deep and wide to cut this J shape based on your measurements.

You will want to divide the child’s rise measurement by half and add 1 inch — or up to 2 inches, if you’d like to add more room to grow.

Mark that far down from the top corner edge of the folded bandana. Then mark an inch and half to two inches in from the outside edge. Cut in a J shape between these two points, leaving a J shaped cut-out on the edges of your folded bandanas.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

Fold the bandanas in half with the fold running vertically.

If I wanted to shorten the legs from the bandana lengths, I would cut that many inches off the top, before I measured and cut the J.

Step three: sew legs

Each bandana will make one leg. Fold them right sides together, and sew down the inseams, which are the edges of the bandana beneath the J crotch seam you cut out.

After you sew each leg, turn them right sides out.

Step four: sew crotch seam

With the legs right sides out, align the crotch seams of each leg piece. Make sure the leg seams you already sewed are aligned, as well as the top edges.

Sew this crotch seam with a stretch stitch, for maximum strength.

Now they look like shorts.

Now they look like shorts.

Step five: sew the waist

Now fold over about an inch at the top of the shorts, toward the inside, and press.

Sew around this seam, leaving a couple inches open, to allow for elastic insertion.

Cut elastic to the child’s waist measurement, attach a large pin to the end of the waist elastic, and thread it through the waist channel.

Then, sew the elastic ends together and top-stitch the waist closed.

Of course, you can hem them if you like, and if you did not shorten them from the top at the beginning.

Personally, I like to let little boys wear them long. The green and blue pair are longer than knee length on my youngest and look cute to me.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Voila! Ten-minute kid shorts.

Sew easy shorts: ten minute adult yoga shorts

I used the same technique to make myself a ten minute pair of shorts, too, refashioned from a t-shirt. I made legs from the front and back panel of one of my dear’s favorite t-shirts, which he has outgrown.

Sew all the seams on these with a stretch stitch.

For mine, I cut the rise a bit short, and then added a waist section from another shirt.

This did not work out perfectly as a ten minute design, so I won’t go into detail about the waist section. Other than to say that I sewed it right sides together to the top of the shorts, and then folded it over and sewed it down on the inside atop the previous seam.

My mistaken way to do this had to add elastic for the top of this section. I want to make these and yoga pants with a crosswise knit cut short enough that it will not need elastic; the ones I just made have too much bulkiness around my already too bulky middle! I’ll hope to show how to make a yoga pants pattern here soon if I can.

But these worked well enough to wear and to love. My husband particularly loves these shorts; he’s been complimenting me on them all day. He doesn’t mind all the bulkiness around my middle, because he is responsible for it. This is what has come from having “cook dinner” on my don’t do list. He cooks things like rich stews, fried chicken, pizzas, and fat burritos and burgers every week! I’m going to have to take dinner off of my don’t-do list soon, or else I’ll have to make myself a whole new wardrobe!

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

I think they will be a comfy favorite, & I made them in just ten minutes for $0.

Ten minute adult legging shorts

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I made another kind of shorts for me in ten minutes, too.

I think of these knee length leggings as undershorts and wear them under casual short dresses.

Make these the same way as the other shorts, using stretchy knit and cutting them smaller for a closer fit.

Rather than adding bulkiness with a waistband channel, stretch a narrow elastic waistband and top stitch it down using a stretch stitch.

The elastic I had is fairly decorative,so I sewed it on the outside in this case. You can use a thicker elastic for the waistband, and sew it on the inside instead, if you prefer.

Make your own shorts

You don’t have to start with bandanas or T-shirts to make shorts.

Make elastic waist shorts to fit anyone by measuring desired length, inseam length, waist and leg circumferences (plus ease) and rise. It is easy to cut shorts to fit anyone’s measurements in just a few short minutes. No pun intended!

I encourage you to both sew easy shorts and to play with bandanas, refashion T-shirts, and have fun with fast fashion ideas like this. Happy sewing!

Looking for the Light

Looking for the Light

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps.

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps.

The older I get, the more light I need to sew – or so it seems. Perhaps the many years of sewing in dimly lit church basements and cramped corners surrounded by double racks of clothing and piles of waxed cardboard ‘chicken’ boxes has finally taken its toll.

Unless I’m sewing in my lovely big-windowed space at Blindspot, I find that I’m constantly searching for more lamps. Even with the almost entire wall of windows in my shop I still have a couple white paper Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, two floor lamps, and small gooseneck table lights next to the machines. The little lights in the domestic machines never seem to be quite enough. I’ve even been known to prop up my cell phone with the flashlight on under the top arm of machines, leaning it against the solid part with the controls and wheel.

Industrial machines come with moveable, bendable gooseneck lamps attached. I position mine low to the left of the machine, almost touching. I never have a problem seeing when sewing with the industrial.

There are countless types of table lamps out there but, for sewing purposes – and especially if you want to be able to angle the light beam under a sewing machine – a clamp-on style or one with a small base is the best. If the base is too big it’ll just get in your way when you’re trying to sew (especially with a machine). You also need one with a long, moveable goose neck or adjustable arm so you can point it where you need it.

Daylight Slimline LED table lamp

The Daylight Slimline LED table lamp is a great choice. It’s extremely narrow and clamps to a table edge. I like that it doesn’t take up excess space; it just does its intended job without being obtrusive and overbearing (and yes, I know I’m anthropomorphizing).

Daylight or full spectrum light sources are said to improve color perception and visual clarity, as well as, mood, productivity, and mental awareness. How valid these claims are depends on whom you’re talking to but, it is pretty well accepted that they do improve color perception. Here’s one study conducted by the Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Daylight Slimline floor lamp

The Daylight Slimline light also comes in a floor lamp version, which is also very useful as you can bend the arm over a chair or your shoulder to work.

Ottlight Creative HD

A really nice, easily portable light is the Ottlight Creative HD high definition natural light.

The Ottlight is named after the inventor of full spectrum lighting, Dr. John Ott.

Doc Ott

All living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun.

All living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun.

Dr. Ott was a banker who loved horticulture and time-lapse photography. This led him into a pioneering career in photobiology; the study of light on living cells.

Dr. Ott ended up working as a consultant for the Walt Disney “Secrets of Life” film series where he found that he couldn’t successfully grow plants indoors under normal everyday artificial lighting. His research showed that, in order to thrive, all living organisms needed the full spectrum of light provided by the sun. It was also during the making of this film that Dr. Ott pioneered the use of time lapse for film and television.

Moving through the spectrum

As his career progressed, Dr. Ott began monitoring the beneficial effects of full spectrum lighting on certain human physiological conditions. He discovered that light color temperatures affected mental health, with balanced light reducing hyperactivity in classrooms and negative behavior in prisons.

One of his biggest discoveries was that proper reproduction of individual cells (plant and animal) is affected by lighting variances. He also realized that the light entering our bodies through our eyes controls and regulates our brain chemistry.

Dr. Ott wrote tons of research as well as three books. He published a series of seven articles in the International Journal of Biosocial Research, titled Color and Light: Their Effects on Plants, Animals, and People. These articles summed up Dr. Ott’s decades of independent research, which, at the time, was contrary to the established wisdom of pharmaceutical companies who were intent on toting the negative effects of natural sunlight.

The Silent Epidemic

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem, so I’m about to grab my bike & go spend some time out in the sun.

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem, so I’m about to grab my bike & go spend some time out in the sun.

At first, Dr. Ott’s research was most often met with polite indifference from the scientific community. Soon, though, clinicians and medical professionals emerged who recognized and aligned with his theory of Mal-illumination or “the silent epidemic”.

Mal-illumination refers to the human trend of becoming ‘contemporary cave dwellers’ and spending the majority of their time indoors and away from natural light sources. Doesn’t sound good, does it?

So, in closing, don’t forget to go outside (outside and sunlight are still free after all!), open the shades, and consider buying yourself a full spectrum lamp if you don’t have one already.

It’s a sunny morning here in Harlem and I’m about to grab my bike and go spend some time out in the sun.

Master Your Serger with Tote-Making Class

Master Your Serger with Tote-Making Class

Sewing Machines Plus in San Marcos, CA has the perfect class to help you master your serger, use your fabric stash & walk away with a fabulous tote bag!

Sewing Machines Plus in San Marcos, CA has the perfect class to help you master your serger, use your fabric stash & walk away with a fabulous tote bag!

If you’ve been using your serger machine for a while now, you’ve probably mastered many of the basics. And if you’re like me, you’re completely in love with your serger! But you’ve probably also noticed there are a lot of features you’ve never used. Some of them you may not need, but wouldn’t it be cool to at least know a few of them? I think so too.

Sewing Machines Plus in San Marcos, CA has the perfect class to help you master your serger, use your fabric stash and walk away with a fabulous tote bag!

Serger Class Details

This class is 2-hours a day for three consecutive Wednesdays in May. May 17, 24 and 31 from 3:30 – 5:30. You’ll need to bring you serger including the power cord, foot pedal and cord. You’ll also need a variety of serger feet, including standard, cording, lace applicator, cover and chain, ruffler, elastic and clear. If you don’t have all of these serger feet, don’t worry, you can buy them at SMP before class.

Don’t forget the fabric! You’ll need at least 7 coordinating fat quarters or scraps and one yard of Soft and Stable.  To go along with the fabric, you’ll also need to bring thread, zipper, buttons, piping and cording. Full class supply list and registration instructions available here. It’s a fun, affordable way to learn the ins and outs of your serger, connect with other stitch aficionados and make an adorable tote bag project.

When your serger tote bag is done, it’ll be great for you or as a gift for a graduating student. Plus, you’ll have a much greater understanding of your serger machine and all its features and accessories.

Are there other classes you’d like to see offered? Let us know! We’ll do our best to accommodate and provide classes of interest.

Dr. Seuss Quilt

Dr. Seuss Quilt

Have you ever bought a quilt kit? I buy them sometimes when the inspiration strikes, or when I’m looking for the convenience of having all the fabric I need for a pattern already provided for me. This kit came out in 2015 and is called Celebrate Seuss by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

This kit came out in 2015 & is called Celebrate Seuss by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

This kit came out in 2015 & is called Celebrate Seuss by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

Start Cutting

Quilt kits do NOT mean that the fabric is precut into the shapes you need. Nope. They’ll send the amount of fabric you need but you will need to cut everything to size before you start sewing.

Quilt kits do NOT mean that the fabric is precut into the shapes you need.

Quilt kits do NOT mean that the fabric is precut into the shapes you need.

I actually started this kit last spring in San Diego. First I got all the individual blocks set up and then put them into rows. Once the rows were sewn into a full panel, I packed this project away. It wasn’t until almost 12 months later that I was ready to finish it.

Once the rows were sewn into a full panel, I packed this project away.

Once the rows were sewn into a full panel, I packed this project away.

Make your Project Your Own

On the left you’ll see the finished photo advertised in the kit. Do you notice how the top and bottom center column run directly into the binding? That drove me crazy, so I amended the pattern. I added a 2” strip of blue polka dot fabric to the top and bottom and a 1” strip of the same fabric to the left and right.

See the right photo? Much better, no? I feel like the whole quilt is better framed.

Lesson learned

It’s okay to deviate from a pattern and a kit. Make your project your own.

Make your project your own.

Make your project your own.

For the back fabric I went with a classic, large white polka dot on red that was very much in keeping with Dr. Seuss’ style.

For the back fabric I went with a classic, large white polka dot on red.

For the back fabric I went with a classic, large white polka dot on red.

Method of Quilting

I’m extremely proud of the free motion quilting (FMQ) I did on this quilt. After years of being afraid to try FMQ, I’ve finally embraced the methodology. It took watching a lot of YouTube video tutorials and a lot of practice, but I’m very happy with the results. I used a relaxed, free-motion, jigsaw pattern for this quilt.

After years of being afraid to try FMQ, I’ve finally embraced the methodology.

After years of being afraid to try FMQ, I’ve finally embraced the methodology.

Binding Your Quilt

Another way I deviated from the kit was in choosing a different fabric for the binding then what they provided. The true-red colored fabric they sent clashed with the classic orange-red Dr. Seuss colors in the front panel. Instead I chose a cornflower blue and white polka dot fabric.

I chose a cornflower blue & white polka dot fabric.

I chose a cornflower blue & white polka dot fabric.

There a numerous ways to bind a quilt. I would suggest learning several methods. I made a 2.75” strip of fabric and then ironed that strip in half and sewed the binding onto the back of the quilt first. I pressed it away from the seam (towards the outside of the quilt) and then pressed it around over the front of the quilt. My 4 year old handed me my favorite red Wonderclips as I clipped the binding in place around the front.

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/brew-cl3156.php

I used a decorative stitch to sew the binding to the front.

I used a decorative stitch to sew the binding to the front.

I used a decorative stitch to sew the binding to the front. Machine sewing your binding is faster and more secure than hand sewing and I recommend it if you know the quilt will get heavy use and washes or be used by children.

When adding your binding, don’t forget to sew in your quilt tag if you have one.

Don’t forget to sew in your quilt tag if you have one.

Don’t forget to sew in your quilt tag if you have one.

 

All in the Details

Here are close ups of the finished quilt and my free motion stitching. SewingMachinesPlus.com has an amazing assortment of sewing machines that do free motion quilting. Check out their machines here:

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/domestic-sewing-machines.php

 

Grand Finale

Taking some final pictures of your finished quilts is worth your effort. Think of how much time you put into each quilt and then grant yourself enough time to wait for the right, natural lighting and find a beautiful location to memorialize your quilts.

A Good Cause

Although it will be hard to part ways, this quilt is being donated to a fundraiser for our local elementary school. Have you ever donated your work to a good cause?

This kit came out in 2015 & is called Celebrate Seuss by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

Have you ever donated your work to a good cause?

———————————————————————————–
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.
Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

We’ve been talking about sewing productivity and how to make more time to sew for the past few weeks. In case you missed them, here are links to part one and part two of this series.

Sewing Productivity Video: How to Make More Time to Sew Part 3

I have a few more tips and ideas to share today and I made a video to recap all these ideas for you.

Batch tasking

Batch tasking is a method you can employ in many systems to make more time.

Don’t run through the same series of steps many times; instead batch steps together and work on many items at once. Cut all those quilt or pattern pieces out at once. Load several bobbins at a time, since this will save you stopping to load another soon.

You can make more time for sewing when you free time from other tasks by batching, too. If you don’t already batch your errands, doing this will make more time for you.  Stop running daily errands, if you do, and run errands quickly on a designated day of the week. Or batch certain errands together more economically.

I usually batch task the bathing of children, baking, computer tasks, and lots of other things. In general, I find that making and doing things in batches helps me to make more time and do more things.

Chunking

Chunking is when you grab a chunk of time to focus on one project.

Flylady made the 15-minute time chunk a daily thing for millions by encouraging her followers to set a timer for 15 minutes and declutter.

While this is a good use of a time chunk, you can use this productivity trick to do anything you want. It’s a great option for getting started on a task you have been been procrastinating about; you can do anything for only 15 minutes.

Pomodoro

For tasks that require more work and focus than 15 minutes, try using pomodoro.

A pomodoro is a 25 minute time chunk. Set your timer for 25 minutes to focus on one specific task. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break and follow with another pomodoro. You can do three or four rounds like this, and then follow with a longer break.

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and was named after a kitchen timer like this one.

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian and was named after a kitchen timer like this one.

I have been amazed to find out just how much work I can get done on tough projects in only 25 minutes. I like pomodoros so much that my whole day is often made up of a long string of them.

Alternating between a 25 period or two at my desk and a 25 minute chunk for housework helps me to get everything done and fights burnout from sitting too long at my desk.

Resources and Inspiration

We’ve touched on a lot of topics in this sewing productivity series. Here are links to more information on some of the ideas and systems we have covered here:

Bullet Journal

Ryder Carroll created the bullet journal system, which is a fabulous way to organize your notebooks if you prefer to use pen and paper for your planning and lists. His quick video here is a great overview of the specifics for this easy system.

I use the bullet journal system like Ryder and scribble quick lists. But it is worth noting that the bujo can also be a creative outlet. Many people create beautiful notebooks with this system. You might like to check out Tiny Ray of Sunshine to see gorgeous examples of creative bullet journal layouts and lists.

Trello

If you would rather use kanban boards and a digital app to keep track of your great ideas and to do lists, Trello is an excellent option. I use free Trello boards for organizing and keeping track of lots of things. It definitely helps my sewing productivity by holding all my good ideas until I can find the time to get them done.

Eisenhower app

The Eisenhower matrix is easy to work with on paper. But if you prefer to go digital, now there is a free and easy-to-use application for making these four quadrant lists.

FlyLady and Kon Mari

If you are unable to achieve sewing productivity because of a messy house or too much clutter, I know a couple of ladies who may be able to help you.

Flylady has helped millions out of CHAOS (can’t have anyone over syndrome) and gently encourages better routines for keeping clean and organized. Just be aware that she will send you a LOT of emails if you sign up for her list.

While Flylady did help me, no one has helped me to create order in my home as much as Marie Kondo and her KonMari system. She wrote The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its sequel, Spark Joy. I recommend these books to anyone who could use more order in their home.

Setting up this system will require significant time investment up front, but once you complete your konmari, you will save tons of time and trouble and your home will stay clean and organized with minimal maintenance. My own sewing productivity has increased at least tenfold since I invested the time to konmari my house.

Sewing productivity: make it a priority

Of course, dirty dishes and laundry are everyday things. It is easy to get caught up in all the things you have to do and never get around to sewing all the things you want to sew.

You can use these productivity tricks I have mentioned to minimize your work and make more time to sew. Or you can let the dishes and laundry pile up and make sewing your top priority. I have to admit that sometimes this is my favorite trick for better sewing productivity.

We all have lots to do and limited time. However you find the time, making is important and I encourage you to make more time to sew.

Groovy Projects for Groovy Buttons

Groovy Projects for Groovy Buttons

One of my absolute favorite parts of life is being an aunt, and my youngest niece as at the adorable age where hitting cookie tins like drums is an awesome-good time. She also adores books, and as an author, I think that’s a good thing! In fact, I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. I had a suspicion that her appreciation of the book was linked to the interesting painted look of the illustrations, but whatever the reason, her focus on the book was real.

I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons.

I spent a decent amount of time last week reading (and re-reading) her the same story, Pete the Cat & His Four Groovy Buttons.

During the book, Pete the Cat has — you might’ve guessed — four groovy buttons that are on his coat, but they pop off one at a time until he’s left with just his belly button. He was cool with it though and “kept on singing his song” (Litwin, 2012, p. 23).

Just keep singing your song!

Just keep singing your song!

Precious Moments

It would be easy to write off these kinds of moments with my niece as just sentimental, but inspiration for creativity can be found in them as well. For instance, Pete the Cat has buttons, and if there’s one element of old clothes that you can keep and re-use for a number of reasons, it’s a button! Right now, as a matter of fact, I have something in need of a button replacement, and if I’d been keeping the buttons from old clothes like I could’ve been doing, I would’ve had one at my disposal to do the repair.

Something about these details — Pete the Cat’s buttons and needing a button for repair — mingled with my brainstorming for this post to lead to creative territory in regard to using buttons for sewing projects. You see, you don’t just have to use them for structural purposes. Pretty easily, they can be used for décor on a number of projects. And for whatever reason, this button-detail seems to have become its own trend to the point where you can buy button stickers for scrapbooks and projects, and there are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

There are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

There are plenty of artistic endeavors outside of sewing that use buttons.

Needle and thread

Since this is a sewing blog though, we’ll focus more on the projects that the lost, but still groovy, buttons of Pete the Cat could’ve gone to in the world of needles and thread.

This button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility.

This button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility.

I mentioned before that I would like to make a purse, so this button purse idea in particular stuck out to me as a possibility. Simple fabric could be used to make the purse itself, and the buttons could be the stand-out quality of its appearance. Of course, I’d need a lot of buttons, but it would be an interesting take for a first-purse experience! Also, if I messed up my sewing, a well-placed button might hide my mistake!

Fashion statement

Since headbands are small projects, making one for the sake of a button endeavor might not be too hectic of an idea!

Since headbands are small projects, making one for the sake of a button endeavor might not be too hectic of an idea!

Other options for using buttons include fancying up jackets, shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, and even shoes! Honestly, if someone had been following Pete, that sewing fan or crafter could’ve been assembling the materials for an interesting project, like breadcrumbs leading to a prize.

Opportunity of abundance

And two wonderful details about this scenario are that buttons are easy to come by and easy to store! A simple jar could hold dozens of buttons that you collect as you go through your clothes to see what you’re going to toss. If you’re in too big of a rush to assemble your button stash this way, you can buy new ones and still keep them in a way that won’t take up too much room. They’re just buttons, after all! You could have the means to fancy up your projects in a bowl that’s waiting by your couch!

Would I have thought of exploring this so thoroughly, and in this way, if I hadn’t spent so much time reading about Pete losing his groovy buttons? Who knows! But it goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere, and it pays to keep your creative mind open from day to day to see what ideas simply living life brings to mind.


Reference: Litwin, E. (2012). Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. New York: Scholastic.
The Soul of Things: Or should I buy that old metal sewing machine?

The Soul of Things: Or should I buy that old metal sewing machine?

A friend told me the other day she was going to start collecting sewing machines. I found this a bit odd, mainly because, though she can sew, she doesn’t on any sort of regular basis. She said she was cleaning her apartment and came across her sewing machine shoved way up on the top shelf of her closet and then, for some reason, had the thought she should start collecting them.

Old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting & cool.

Old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting & cool.

I get it; old sewing machines, especially the really old ones, look quite interesting and cool. They often have intricate decals and ornate brand badges. Most of them still work – mainly because they’re all metal and have less parts to break.

Oldie but a goodie

I used to have an old black iron Singer with a knee pedal. I don’t remember the model number but it was one of the first ‘portable’ models Singer made. The machine did run on electricity and came in a beautiful wood dome shaped case. In reality, it was actually a bit too heavy to be considered portable. I think I found it in the depths of some storage room in an old school building somewhere in Syracuse, NY. I was working for a costume designer, I think, for the opera. (Does Syracuse still have an opera? I can’t remember – it’s been so long).

We had been given the storage room as a work space and told we could have and/or use whatever was in it. I remember sitting in a corner, shelves and tables around me piled high with fabrics and boxes and just stuff, sewing tucks into big white cotton petticoats. I remember the machine being very fast. Unlike a lot of models today who have multiple speed settings, machines back then only had one: fast.

I honestly am not sure what happened to that machine. I know it made the move to Texas but it didn’t make the move to NYC, so it’s been gone from my life for almost fifteen years. I suspect I sold it at a garage sale for $20.00 or something. Or even gave it away to someone who would use it – which is sort of how I think antique sewing machines should navigate through life.

Value: only in the eye of the beholder

I know there are some ‘rare’ models that are perhaps ‘worth’ a lot of money but, all in all, I think people tend to pay entirely too much for used machines. Online auction sites such as Ebay certainly contribute to that. I suppose it’s nice that people can get some money for the old machine that’s been sitting in their basement or garage but, I also think those Ebay auctions get a bit out of hand. And they also trend, often for no discernable reason.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

Featherweights are always a popular machine and sell routinely for over $500.00. I found one, which is rarer than the black ones, but it is currently listed on Ebay at $1280.00.

It’s a beautiful machine and comes with the carrying case but no accessories. I honestly think it’s priced too high but perhaps someone will buy it. The value of things is, of course, ultimately measured by what people will pay for that thing (just look at real estate prices in NYC).

The case is a nice touch, since that is all you will likely get with these older machines. Through the passage of time, included accessories & attachments become rare finds.

The case is a nice touch, since that is all you will likely get with these older machines. Through the passage of time, included accessories & attachments become rare finds.

What now?

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

Go to garage sales (or stoop sales if you live in the city). When I lived in Texas, I used to frequent yard and garage sales all the time. I almost always found at least one machine at each sale. Some of them I bought but they were never for more than $30.00 or $40.00. If you are buying a machine at sale, ask if you can plug it in to see if it works. Check to see if you can turn the wheel freely and, even if the belt happens to be cracked or broken (they often are as the belts are usually rubber) make sure the light comes on when plugged in.

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

So, what should you do if you really want to collect old machines but don’t want to spend all of your extra money on it?

The needle won’t go up and down if the belt is missing or damaged but belts are not an expensive or difficult thing to fix. Check for rust too. Machines that have been stored in a garage or barn often have too much rust damage to ever run well again.

I’ve gotten out of the buy old sewing machines game (I live in a 5th floor walkup in NYC after all), especially on online auction sites. Although many of those machines are cosmetically extraordinary, they lack a “soul”. The only ‘antique’ machines I have now are my Nana’s old Singer 401K and a Singer hemstitcher we purchased for Boardwalk Empire. I’ll never get rid of Nana’s machine. Its sentimental value is immeasurable (even if it didn’t work though it does).

And that’s when things truly become priceless: when they somehow hold a collection of memories related to a person or time.

Sewing Seams That Stay Together

Sewing Seams That Stay Together

There’s nothing that makes more nuts than seams that come apart. I know it’s a small thing and they can easily be fixed, but it drives me nuts when seams don’t stay together. Over the years, I’ve come up with some techniques to keep seams together, even if the thread breaks. It saves my sanity, and my clothes, a lot of stress.

Fabric tape

Sewing Seams That Stay Together

This is my absolute favorite sewing cheat. Don’t get me wrong, I still sew the seams on my Singer, but before I do, I use double-sided fabric tape to hold it down. This way, if the thread breaks and the seam starts to come apart, my hems and side seams stay put. I don’t have to worry about splitting seams in the middle of a work day or outing. And it means I can take my time repairing the seam rather than having to fix it immediately.

Fabric tape doesn’t work with every seam. It works best with hems and cuffs, but I’ve come up with a way to use smaller pieces of it on side seams too. With side seams, I sew the tape right into the seam and cut the excess away while I’m trimming the fabric finishing up the piece.

Double stitches

As sewers, we all sew back and forth over seams at the beginning and end to lock them in. I use this same technique on areas of a seam that are likely to come apart due to stress. Inner thighs on pants, arm pits and elbow areas seem to be places that come apart a lot for me so I’ll often double stitch over them to prevent those areas from coming apart.

Over stitching

I often give those same high stress seam areas some extra attention by hand or using the over stitch function on my machine. By sewing over the fabric of those high stress areas, the seams are less likely to pull apart. There’s also more thread in that area, in different directions. The likelihood of them all breaking is slim to none.

I can’t promise you won’t ever have a seam come apart using these techniques, but I can promise they’ll be less likely to come apart. So if you have broken seams as much as I do, give them a try and let me know how it goes.