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.
Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re a little bored. You’d love to work on a sewing project, but you’re also in between projects. You don’t have any events coming up and you don’t have the urge to create something new for your wardrobe, or anyone else’s. I call this a sewing lull. In my freelance writing and book writing careers, I sometimes experience the same thing. Over the years, I’ve found some techniques to get through those lull periods without going stir crazy from boredom.

Go Back to Your Joy

Go Back to Your Joy

Why did you start sewing in the first place? Was it to make something specific or was it simply because it was a skill you wanted to learn? Think about what gives you the most joy when you sew. For me, it’s one of two things: either wearing something I’ve made and getting complimented on it or giving something I made to someone and seeing their joy. Tap into what you love about sewing. Then…

Expand Your Repertoire

If you’re like me, you usually have a few favorite things to make. Use your sewing lull to expand your repertoire. If you usually make clothes, try making a stuff toy or blanket. Maybe go really big and learn a completely different sewing skill, like quilting or embroidery. As long as it taps into the reason(s) you started sewing, love sewing, in the first place, you’ll have a winner.

Run with Scissors

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really do this. It’s dangerous. What I mean is step outside your comfort zone, disregard what usually holds you back and leap into a new sewing skill, project or technique without taking time to talk yourself out of it. Maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to try for years, but your pragmatic side has been holding you back. This sewing lull is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

I find these three things get me through any lull, sewing or writing, and I learn some new things along the way. At the same time, it also helps me reconnect with why I love what I do – we all need that reminder sometimes, right.

Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Gifts for Grads Who Love to Sew

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence.

Getting through school requires determination, persistence and intelligence. Graduating seniors have earned the recognition and gifts their family bestows. We’d like to throw our hat in the ring and congratulate all graduates this year too! To help them celebrate, we have some great gift suggestions for grads who love to sew.

Sewing Totes

As your graduate heads out into the world for the next phase of their life, they’ll want to have their sewing machine and supplies with them. Sewing totes are the perfect way for them to pack up all their sewing gear safely and transport it to this next step on their life and for all the subsequent moves to come. The variety of colors, styles and sizes means you’ll find the perfect sewing tote for your graduate.

Embroidery Hoops

Not all of this year’s grads will embroider, but those who do will love getting a gift of embroidery hoops. Try getting them a variety of shapes and sizes so they’ll have plenty on hand for future projects. And know that any time they use one of the hoops you gave them, they’ll think of you while working on their embroidery project. Those warm memories will work their way into the project, making it that much more special.

Sewing Furniture

Many new graduates begin by moving into a place of their own – with or without roommates. Help them get set up and make their place comfortable with sewing furniture. Whether they’ll have a separate sewing room or a small space in the corner of a shared apartment, the right sewing furniture will help them feel more comfortable and settle into their new living arrangements.

Garment Care

With luck, the graduate in your life has a job lined up. Whether they do or not, they’ll need to look their professional best on the on the job hunt and in the workplace. Garment care items will help them do just that. They work well on both store-bought and handmade items, so your graduate who loves to sew may wind up sharing these gifts with their roommates and coworkers.

Graduates who love to sew may also appreciate gift certificates to fabric stores or to our website. What will you buy your grad this year?

Fancy-Up a T-Shirt

Fancy-Up a T-Shirt

Fancy-Up a T-Shirt

If you’re anything like me, when you find a t-shirt that fits well and is comfortable, you buy a bunch of them in a bunch of colors. Next time you do this, buy at least one more in a duplicate color. That t-shirt becomes the base for creating a fancy t-shirt that shows of your personal style. Build off it using items like lace, patches, fabric scraps, piping and beads. Or try your hand at embroidery.

Lace

There are a couple of ways to use lace on a t-shirt. You can use full pieces of it to create a collar or edging on the sleeves or bottom. If that’s a little too vintage for you, try cutting apart lace and sewing parts of the design on the shoulder, sleeves, hem or around the neckline.

There are a couple of ways to use lace on a t-shirt.

There are a couple of ways to use lace on a t-shirt.

Patches

I’m a big fan of patches. Browse through your local craft store and find some that you really like. Place them on the sleeves, shoulders or bodice of your t-shirt to create the look you want. Even if they’re iron patches, I advise you to sew them on using either your machine or hand stitching.

I’m a big fan of patches.

I’m a big fan of patches.

Fabric scraps

Use these in a similar fashion as store bought patches. It’s a great way to use up some of your fabric stash while creating a funky, country t-shirt look. I recommend sewing the edges under to prevent fraying, unless you’re going for that look. Using a fabric marker in combination with fabric scraps can add to the country-chic look.

Use these in a similar fashion as store bought patches.

Use these in a similar fashion as store bought patches.

Piping

I love using piping around the bottom of the shirt and sleeves, but there are other options too. You can create a military look using piping on the shoulders or add some funk to the bodice. Get creative and use colors that contrast from the t-shirt color.

Get creative & use colors that contrast from the t-shirt color.

Get creative & use colors that contrast from the t-shirt color.

Beads

You can do a lot with beads on your t-shirt.

You can do a lot with beads on your t-shirt.

You can do a lot with beads on your t-shirt. They look great as a faux necklace around the neckline or along the edges of the sleeves or bottom of the shirt. Another option is to create a design on the front of back of your shirt using beads. I suggest using a washable marker or pencil to draw out the design before placing the beads.

Whether you use one or many of these techniques, you’ll wind up with a t-shirt that expresses your sense of style. They’re great in combination or alone. A t-shirt with even one of these creative additions would cost quite a bit in a store. Doing it yourself is both fun and cost effective. Give it a try and see what you come up with.

Vintage Chic Embroidery Class in June

Vintage Chic Embroidery Class in June

Do you have memories of embroidery work your gram used to do? Maybe you’ve still got an item or two of clothing that she embroidered for you. These vintage embroidery designs are coming back into fashion. If you’ve been trying to recreate this look with your embroidery machine and haven’t had much luck, this upcoming class is for you!

Apparel

Vintage embroidery looks great on men’s and women’s clothing, children’s wear and home décor and accessories. Once you master the technique, you’ll be embroidering everything you can get your hands on.

What to Expect in Class

Vintage Chic Embroidery Class in June

Vintage Chic Embroidery Class in June

This four-hour class includes both lecture and interactive components. You’ll learn how to use the Vintage Software to create beautiful designs on anything you can image. You’ll play with colors and textures to create completely unique results. Learning the DIME way, you’ll master flawless borders. And you’ll learn the secrets behind embroidering on prints, nubby fabrics like knit work, and smooth fabrics like satins and sateens.

Not enough? How about also learning to with heavy thread and matte finishes? All this included for just $29. When you register online (here)  you’ll receive five specially digitized Vintage embroidery designs and get a free goody bag in class!

Register today to save your seat: http://www.inspiredbydime.com/events/sewing-machine-plus-vintage-chic-june-2017/

When is this Awesome Embroidery Class?

We’re glad you asked! The amazing Donna Siler is teaching this class on June 9 and June 10. Both days the class runs from 10am to 2pm. Four-hours of your time will have you embroidering vintage designs like a pro! Classes are held at our shop at 713 Center Drive in San Marcos, CA.

Don’t miss your chance to learn Vintage embroidery. The software makes it easy and this class gives you everything you need to know to create vintage designs on any fabric. They’re so fashionable now, your family and friends will want you to personalize their clothes and home décor.

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.