Posts by Sarah Woodard

Sarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats.
Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

I love to make clothes, but quilting isn’t really my thing. From afar, I admire and drool over gorgeous handmade quilts and ponder the patience involved in creating such intricate designs. In high school, my love of fabric crafts had me relegated to one of the unpopular groups – not that I fit in with any of them either. In college, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who discovered a passion for quilting her senior (my sophomore) year.

Friends and benefits

Handmade Quilts – the Gift that Keeps Giving

Her passion for quilting became a gift to me! One that keeps on giving, even though we’ve since lost touch. In college, it meant I finally had someone to geek out with me over awesome fabrics and different sewing machine options. I admit, I’m not the easiest person to live with, so the commonality of fabric crafts is what probably saved our roommate relationship.

After she graduated, she made me a quilt for my bed using my favorite colors: purple and teal. I still use it today. I’ve got it draped over my lap right now, in fact because in my part of the country, it’s cold and rainy. The quilt she gifted me has served me well in the nearly 15 years since I graduated college. Not only is it warm and pretty, it consistently matches the décor in my home, no matter how many times I move. And it reminds me of my first fabric craft friend.

Practice makes perfect

At some point, for practice, she also made me a smaller, square quilt with a variety of black and white fabrics. It’s not large enough to cover me and keep me warm, but I love it and the thought she put into. I’m not sure how’d she feel about this, but I used it to make a cat bed under one of the window sills. It’s great because I can easily wash it and the cats love the softness and cushioning it provides to what would otherwise be a wooden bench.

Just like the clothes I make are made with love, so too are homemade quilts. That love combined with the utilitarian factor of quilts make them the gift that keeps on giving. Whether they’re given for big life events like wedding or births or simply as a way to say “I care,” homemade quilts are a gift that the receiver may carry throughout their lives.

Sewing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sewing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive motion injury in the wrist. Typing, hammering, sewing and other actions can be the cause. Those some actions can cause an existing injury in to flare up. The numbing, tingling, pain and stiffness CTS causes can make it all but impossible to sew. As someone who writes for a living, CTS is pretty much a given. I don’t want to give up my livelihood or my hobbies over it. So, I’ve learned to modify. Sewing with CTS was a challenge at first, but if I can do it, so can you!

Wear a Brace

My CTS started back in highschool when I worked in an ice cream shop. Back then, we called it scooper’s wrist. I bought a cheap brace from the drug store up the street from the ice cream parlor and managed to keep going. The next time it flared up was college – as an English major I did A LOT of typing. A sturdier, more expensive brace helped with that. The things to consider are how immobile the brace keeps your wrist and comfort. Don’t be afraid to try on several at the store to check for fit and comfort.

Use the Other Hand

I’m a bit naturally ambidextrous, so this wasn’t too hard for me, but if you’re not, it could be a little harder. Gripping tiny pins is much too painful for me to do with my right hand. The CTS makes it nearly impossible. Instead, I taught myself to pin with my left hand. This wasn’t easy since it also meant holding the fabric differently. Be patient with yourself and with the process. It will come with time and practice.

Get Lefty Scissors

Just like pinning with my right hand is nearly impossible, cutting can be equally as challenging. If you’ve ever tried to use your regular scissors in your left hand, you know it’s pretty difficult. The blades are one directional. Instead, invest in a pair of lefty scissors. You’ll find that cutting with your left hand is pretty simple after that. You may need to make other modifications to the layout of your cutting surface, etc. to accommodate using the opposite hand.

Don’t let carpal tunnel syndrome take away your sewing time. Instead, try out these modifications and keep doing your favorite hobby. And don’t forget to talk to your doctor – they may have treatment options that can help long-term.

Optimal Lighting in Your Sewing Room

Optimal Lighting in Your Sewing Room

In my house, one of the best times to get some sewing done his after everyone house has gone to bed. The only problem with this is the lighting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that the regular lighting in the room is not sufficient for a sewing project. Instead, I’ve come up with some ways to bring a little more light to my sewing area without taking up valuable sewing surface space.

Clip-on lights

I used to have one of these as a kid, clipped on my headboard. It was great for reading in bed at night. Now I have one clipped to my sewing desk. The head bends and swivels so I can change the angle to bring lighting to the appropriate area. Much easier than trying to do this with a flashlight between my teeth! I also have a clip-on light with a longer neck attached to the back of my chair. It comes up over my shoulder and provides lighting to the shadow areas closest to my body.

Bulbs

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available. Personally, I prefer 120-watt (or equivalent LED) bulbs to provide light for close sewing work.  Since that’s too bright for the daytime any regular lights in the room have three-way switch options. This way everyone can have the amount of light they need for whatever activity they’re doing.

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available.

I use higher wattage bulbs to increase the total amount of light available.

My daughter uses the sewing room for her own projects and does not like as much light as I do. Also, the three-way light option means that I can have less bulb lighting during the day and more natural lighting if I prefer.

I have a friend who has an overhead light with four bulbs. When she turns it on, she can choose to have either sets of two or all four bulbs lit. By placing lower wattage bulb in two of the lights and higher watt bulbs in the other two, she’s able to maximize her options.

What other ways do you work with the natural and artificial lighting in your sewing room to give you the best view?

Prepping Your Sewing Room for Summer

Prepping Your Sewing Room for Summer

I’ve come up with a few tricks over the years to let the fresh air in while keeping my sewing projects organized.

I’ve come up with a few tricks over the years to let the fresh air in while keeping my sewing projects organized.

With the warm weather rolling in, it’s time to open the windows. I love the feel of fresh air blowing through the house and cleaning the stagnant air out. It does present a few sewing challenges though. Fabric and patterns get blown around if I’m not careful. I’ve come up with a few tricks over the years to let the fresh air in while keeping my sewing projects organized.

Positioning

In my house, the air blows in from some directions more than others. I use this to my advantage and position my sewing table and supplies in such a way that they’re not directly inline of the strongest gusts. This usually takes care of most of the issues with supplies blowing around.

Paper Weights

Well, maybe they should be called Fabric Weights. Personally, I use clean rocks I’ve found on hikes, but anything that holds down the fabric and pattern pieces you’re not actively using will do. They look pretty and keep everything neatly in place while you enjoy the summer air.

Opposing Force

It sounds counterintuitive, but it seems to work when I do it right. If it’s a particularly breezy day, I’ll turn a fan on facing into the breeze coming in the window. When the balance is right, my sewing supplies wind up in a pocket of non-blowing air. It takes practice to find the right direction and speed and doesn’t always work. I prefer the first two tricks, but I’ll resort to this one if I’m really struggling with the wind.

I find that sometimes the breeze from an overhead fan or air conditioner can cause my sewing projects to blow around too. I’ve found that fabric weights are usually the best solution there since I want to feel the cooling effects of the air conditioner and/or fan.

What other tricks do you do to keep yourself comfortable and keep your fabric and pattern pieces from blowing around?

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.

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.

Save on Sewing Machines This Spring

Save on Sewing Machines This Spring

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

I still sew on my mom’s old Singer. It’s got its quirks and issues, but I feel close to her when I use it. Each stitch reminds me of childhood memories sewing with my mother. Like the time she came into my nursery school class and made bean bags with all of us. Or the first time she showed me how to use a pattern to make my own clothes. As much as I wouldn’t trade these memories, having a new sewing machine is appealing.

A new sewing machine has features mine doesn’t. And a new sewing machine would, in some ways, be easier to use. There have been improvements in mechanisms and needle motion since my mom’s Singer was manufactured. I’m not ready to trade up from that old Singer, but you might be. If that’s the case, Spring is the perfect time to buy from Sewing Machines Plus!

Spring Sale on Sewing Machines

As nature comes back to life and renews itself, you can renew your passion for sewing with up to $400 off sewing machines and furniture. Even with that great discount, sewing machines can take a big bite out of your budget. To help out with that, you can combine the $400 off with 0% APR financing! Check out all the items included in the Spring Sales Event from Sewing Machines Plus, including furniture, right here.

SewingMachinesPlus.com Spring Sale - shop now!

SewingMachinesPlus.com Spring Sale – shop now!

Other Spring Sales Benefits

Every purchase you make on Sewing Machines Plus that’s over $49 comes with free shipping! In most cases, purchases ship the same day and are delivered in two to five business days. Don’t miss out on your chance to save big on that new sewing machine! Whether you’re looking for a long-arm quilter, an embroidery machine, a serger/overlock machine, or a simpler sewing machine, you’ll find something amazing at the Spring Sales Event.

What sewing machine or furniture will you save on this spring?

Fabric Scrap Projects

Fabric Scrap Projects

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a huge stash of fabric scraps. You don’t want to toss them since the pieces are big enough to be used for SOMETHING. But you also don’t really know what you’ll use them for. I’ve recently made it a mission of sorts to use my fabric scraps before I buy any new fabric. That’s led me to come up with projects, many of which allow me to upcycle other items as well.

Cat litter bucket small ottoman

I’ve been looking for a small ottoman to go with my living room love seat for a while. I hadn’t found anything I liked, that was the right size and that matched my décor. Then, I hit upon an idea!

With four cats in the house, I buy large tubs of cat litter on a regular basis. They pile up until I either find a use for them or make room in the recycling bin. I also had in my scrap bucket some brown faux suede upholstery fabric that goes nicely with the décor and nearly matched the love seat color. Perfect! I grabbed the litter bucket and layered the bottom with sand to make it a little heavy so it wouldn’t tip easily. Then, I hot glued a pile of polyester stuffing on the top of the bucket and cut off the handle.

Finally, I cut the upholstery fabric scrap to fit around the bucket and wrapped the bucket the same way you might wrap a Christmas or birthday present. Some beads of hot glue and voila! A comfy ottoman that’s also cat approved.

Hair scrunchy

Those of us with long hair know the importance of having a great hair tie for every outfit. Using my fabric scrap stash I’ve come up with a way to make a scrunchies to match every piece of clothing I’ve made. It’s super easy! All you need is a rubber hair elastic like you buy at any drugstore or grocery store.

Cut a piece from your fabric scrap that’s long enough to go around the hair elastic. With right side out, encircle the hair elastic in your chosen fabric. Use pins to keep it in place and to be sure it wrinkles and folds in enough places to make you happy. Tuck in the raw edges and hand sew the fabric, being sure the fabric remains loose around the hair elastic. Then simply rotate the fabric so the seam you’ve made is on the inside of the scrunchy circle. Place in your hair and be the envy of all.

What other fabric scrap ideas do you have?

Free Brother Sewing Projects

Free Brother Sewing Projects

Free Brother Sewing Projects

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

Feathered Skirt

Free pencil skirt pattern by Christopher Palu.

Free pencil skirt pattern by Christopher Palu.

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

Makeup Bag

Seth Aaron’s free makeup bag pattern.

Seth Aaron’s free makeup bag pattern.

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

Custom Laptop Case

Joshua Cook’s custom laptop case free pattern.

Joshua Cook’s custom laptop case free pattern.

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

Earrings

Anthony Auld’s free Embroidered Earrings pattern.

Anthony Auld’s free Embroidered Earrings pattern.

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

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

Charity Sew Event

Charity Sew Event

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

Days for Girls

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

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

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

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

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

What You’ll Make

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

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

How to Get Involved

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

Click image to go to event page!

Click image to go to event page!