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.
Sewing with Confidence

Sewing with Confidence

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced sewer, there will always be projects that seem too tough, that are hard to feel completely confident about taking on. Without a way to approach projects confidently, it can be tempting to skip doing them all together. What a shame it is when we miss out on making something special simply because it seems too hard. Instead, try using these tips to build your confidence and get that project done.

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Break it Down

Often, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by a project if I try to look ahead at all the directions. With simpler projects, I can do that and picture the whole thing coming together in my mind. With more complex projects, reading ahead sometimes makes me feel like it’s too hard. I won’t see the project. Instead, I get lost in the words of it and panic at the sight of terms I’ve not seen before.

The simplest and quickest way to overcome my fears and boost my sewing confidence is to take it one step at a time. Instead of reading through the whole thing, I only focus on the step I’m currently working on and the move on to the next. This makes it easy to look up any terms I’m not familiar with and complete each step successfully. And, of course, doing this generates more confidence. I have a hunch it will be the same for you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Ask for Help

Although sewing is largely a solo hobby, that doesn’t mean you have to work through every project on your own. If you’re stuck, bring your fabric and the pattern to your local fabric or sewing machine store and ask their experts to help you out. They may be able to give you an explanation that’s easier to understand than the one written in your pattern instructions. Also, having the corresponding fabric pieces may help to show you a way to pin or cut the pieces to match what the instructions are asking you to do. And once you’ve learned it, you can apply it, confidently, to future projects.

These two tricks have helped me tackle everything from a sundress to a wedding dress with confidence and wind up with gorgeous completed projects that I’m proud to wear. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a project, don’t fret. Try these two tips and get the confidence you need to complete the project without stress.

One Day Sewing Projects

One Day Sewing Projects

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Sometimes I don’t want a big sewing project. If I’m pressed for time or simply need to fill an afternoon or one day out of the weekend, I don’t necessarily want to start a project that will take days, weeks, or months to complete. Nor do I want the hassle and expense of shopping for supplies for a larger project. I just want to sew for a couple of hours and have something to show for it. If that’s ever happened to you, these sewing projects you can do in a day are the perfect solution.

Circle Skirt

Make this for yourself or your daughter…or making a matching mother/daughter pair. This circle skirt can be done in just a couple of hours and it’s perfect for whirling and twirling when it’s done. Unless you have large amounts of the same fabric on hand (cause you just buy fabrics you like when you see them, maybe?) you’ll need to hit the store for material. If you’ve got enough fabric on hand, you’re good to go.

Vendor Apron

Are you the one they ask to help out with bake sales, garage sales, and other school fund raisers? You need this vendor apron to keep your notepads, pens, and other supplies close at hand. It’s super simple to make with an old pillowcase or one you fell in love with at the thrift store and now need a use for. Make a bunch so the whole PTA will have one.

Trendy Fashion Tank

With this awesome pattern there’s no need to spend your hard earned money on brand name t-shirts and tanks. The trendy fashion tank is patterned after a popular JCrew top, but made by you. You’ll need jersey sheets or another source of that same material to make this pattern. Flat jersey sheets can be bought at discount stores for around $7, so it’s well worth the investment to make this shirt yourself.

Hair Bows

Not only do these work up fast, they’re a great way to use up your scraps. Hair bows never really go out of style, so make a bunch. Give them as gifts or sell them at craft fairs. Depending on the material you choose they can be vintage, modern, or anything in between. No matter what, they’re sure to be a hit!

The next time you’re looking for a quick project, try one of these projects. They take a day (or less in most cases) and leave you with a great finished piece, a feeling of accomplishment, and instant gratification. Many of these projects are also great for sew sewers since they can quickly see the results of their efforts.

Sewing Buddies

Sewing Buddies

Among my group of friends, I’m the only one that sews. We all figure it’s a skill that they’ll all turn to me for after the Zombie Apocalypse. Kidding! I am the only one who sews and it is a valuable skill, but since I don’t have a group of friends to sew with, I’ve made my own sewing buddies. Really, they’re just stuffed animals I’ve made, but they sit in my swing area and keep me company when the cats take off at the sound of the sewing machine. If you need some sewing buddies too, check out these cute stuffed animal patterns and make some for yourself.

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Stuffed Fox Sewing Pattern

Made from fleece, these little guys work up quickly and are loved by kids and adults. When finished, they’re about 15” tall and have the sweetest faces. I used buttons for the eyes and nose, since there aren’t young children playing with them in my house, but the applique idea is great for homes with kids. Make a girl one and a boy one so they can keep each other company.

Sock Monkey Pattern

I’m not sure why, but people seem to give me wild sox for birthday or Christmas gifts. I don’t wear crazy socks, never have. I re-gift them when I can, but that’s not always possible. So, this sock monkey sewing pattern is the perfect way to use those crazy socks and get myself a sewing buddy. Make two and they can cuddle with intertwined arms. Add some Velcro to their hands to keep the cuddle pose in place.

Fat Quarter Bunnies

I love these! So often when I’m at the fabric store, I see fat quarters and want to buy them, but typically, they’ll wind up sitting in my fabric stash, never used. These sweet bunnies are the perfect use for those fat quarters and they’re so cute in my sewing area.

Sock Dragon Sewing Pattern

Yet another awesome use for all those crazy socks I seem to get. The sock dragon is a bit more challenging than his cousin sock monkey, but it also uses an additional pair of socks! I love dragons, so having one, or several, in my sewing space is great company.

If you’re looking for some sewing buddies, these stuffed animal patterns are a great way to make some company for yourself. Try them and let me know what you think!

Sewing Themed Books

Sewing Themed Books

I don’t know about where you live, but in New England, we’ve had a lot of storms this summer. Thankfully, we haven’t lost power. But we’ve been stuck inside quite a bit. That means there’s been lots of time to sew! So much time, in fact, I’m out of projects! Horrors! Has that ever happened to you? It’s left me feeling a bit adrift. There’s another storm going on as I write this and I’m looking at my sewing machine with desire and my heart and no idea what to make. Even my scrap stash is pretty depleted. Boo! So, I’m going to read sewing themed books and mysteries instead! Here’s some of my favorites!

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Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series

Main character, Victoria “Tori” Sinclair is a transplant to Sweet Briar, SC. She joins the sewing circle and takes a job as head library. The series currently runs to 12 books and it’s highly likely that author Elizabeth Lynn Casey will keep them coming! With all the storms we’ve been having, I can curl up with a cup of tea and finish all 12 books this summer!

Magical Dress Making Series

Texas hospitality, a haunted dress shop and a Manhattan fashion designer. All the elements of a great story! Book six of this series by Melissa Bourbon was released in 2015. Hopefully the rain will stop and I won’t be completely done with the series before she releases the next one!

Deadly Notions Mystery Series

No sewing project is complete without the perfect notions. Turns out, no sewing mystery series is complete without them either! Cate Price weaves tales of Daisy and her husband Joe living in Pennsylvania. Joe renovates their house while Daisy has found her calling working at a quaint shop that sells sewing bits and bobs, antiques and jewelry. Book number three was released in 2015. With the rain raging, I might get through all of these just this week!

At least by reading about sewing I won’t feel like my sewing machine is missing me too much! What are some of your favorite sewing themed books?

Sewing Through a Crisis

Sewing Through a Crisis

Like me, I’m sure many of you find sewing to be a relaxing, calming activity. Something about the personal space it affords along with focusing on the details of your project instead of whatever else may be going on is a great relief. When life gets to be too much, I often retreat to my sewing space. It makes sense, then, that when a personal or professional crisis occurs, I’d sew my way through it.

Freelance work

Being a freelancer is a walk on the line between comfort and professional crisis. Not all clients communicate well and sometimes they make changes which impact my income. In some cases, they give me no warning and leave me in panic mode trying to replace the money I made writing for them. As you can imagine, this is stressful. It feels like a crisis.

Crisis mode!

Crisis mode!

Yes, I work hard to replace the income. I spend time seeking new clients, asking existing ones for referrals and going to networking events. But in between these efforts, to keep my sanity in check and my professional demeanor in place, I sew.

I sew anything. It doesn’t have to be a project I’m excited about. In fact, in these moments, it’s often better if it’s something I’m not planning to wear for a special event. That way, I won’t feel any internal pressure to make it come out perfectly.

Scrappy solutions

I sew fabric scraps in my stash pile together to make funky shapes and patterns. Sometimes they get made into a pillow or another decorative piece. Sometimes they don’t. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece. The point is to calm my mind and emotions. It’s to keep me focused and reasonably calm, despite the professional crisis of losing a client and the need to quickly replace the income.

An hour of sewing at lunch gives me the inner peace I need to spend the rest of the day working hard looking for new clients without the grip of anxiety grabbing me at every step.

When you’re facing a crisis, personal or professional, try sewing your way through it. You might just find you’re better able to cope and be the person you, and your loved ones, need you to be.

Cat Sewing Projects

Cat Sewing Projects

I love my cats. They’re like children to me. I wake up in the morning to purring and got to bed at night with them cuddled around me. Some people think cats are aloof, but mine are anything but! I think the more affection you give cats, they more they give you. Since my cats are my family, I can’t think of a single reason not to sew for them. Can you? I didn’t think so! I love these cat sewing projects, but I make no promises that your cats (or mine) will enjoy them as much as we’ll enjoy making them.

Purrty as a Flower

Add a little pizzazz to your cat’s collar with this adorable flower collar pattern. Your fur baby’s sweet face becomes the center of the flower while the soft petals surround them. It’s perfect for spring and summer. See if you can pose them with some flower cuttings and post a picture in the comments.

Ball Toy

To reward your sweet kitty for tolerating the petal costume, make them a patchwork ball toy. This is also a great way to use up some fabric scraps. If you’ve got young children, they can help stuff the balls and then play with kitty when they’re done. Add a bell inside to grab kitty’s attention and they’ll likely play with this for hours.

Cat House

Sometimes cats just need a space of their own. With this neat cat house pattern, you can give them their own special hiding place. Put it next to their favorite heat source and they might even use it the way you expect! And with fleece inside, you can bet they’re going to paw and claw it.

Catnip Mouse

What cat can resist catnip? These catnip mice are easy to make from fabric and ribbon scraps. In less than an hour, you can provide your feline friend with a toy that will give them hours of joy.

Chair Cushion

My cats are constantly sitting on my dining room chair cushions. I don’t mind, but my guests don’t always enjoy standing up and walking away with their pants full of fur. Here’s the perfect solution! Non-slip cushions just for the cats. When I have guests, I can simply replace these with clean ones for the humans. Best of all, the cat cushions have a removable cover for easy cleaning.

Show your cat some love and sew them one, or more, of these projects. If nothing else, you’ll smile while you do!

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

The hot weather means flowing, loose clothes that keep you cool while flattering your body. For me, it also means it’s time to sew! Sundresses are some of my favorite things to make. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve made over the years – most of them I still wear! The key to success with making a sundress is choosing the right pattern. The right sundress pattern will flatter your body.

Think About What You Want to Accentuate

We all have things about our bodies we like…and things we don’t. Start by thinking about the things you like about your body. Great legs? Go with a shorter length dress. Love your flat stomach? Make sure the dress is fitted at the waist. Adore your curves? Don’t be afraid to show them off with some well-placed darts. Keep all of these things in mind as you search for your sundress pattern. It’s easy to get pulled into a pattern that looks great on the package or model, but by keeping in mind what flatters YOUR body, you’ll be able to set aside any that won’t work.

Figure Out What You Want to Cover Up

Now, think about those parts of your body you want to cover up. Tummy not as flat as it used to be? Try an empire waist to accentuate other curves and avoid the cling around your stomach. Wish you were a little less curvy? Try something loose and flowy with material to match. Wish your legs were longer or skinnier? Go with a long sundress.

Pro tip: If you don’t like your arms, add a sheer shawl to the ensemble. Some patterns even come with the shawl included.

Match Your Skill Level

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

When you’ve determined the style of sundress you want to make based on your body and what you like and dislike about it, look at patterns that match your sewing skill level. You’ll find that using these three factors it’s easy to narrow down your sundress pattern options to a manageable number. Then, pick the one you like best and hit the fabric aisles!

Every sundress I’ve made from a pattern chosen this way is one I still wear. Sundresses where I picked the pattern simply because I liked it and didn’t think about my body or my abilities were worn once, at best, and discarded. No one wants to see that happen after the effort of making a sundress. Instead, make a sundress you’ll love to wear using these simple steps to pick your pattern.

Fast and Easy Way to Hem Pants

Fast and Easy Way to Hem Pants

My fast and easy way to hem jeans & pants.

My fast and easy way to hem jeans & pants.

I’m barely over 5’ tall. It used to be that clothing companies made pants in “short” lengths to accommodate people of my stature. More and more often now, though, I’m finding that clothing companies, particularly jeans producers, make pants in “regular” and “tall.” I’m not sure why they think all the short (or as I prefer to call it, concentrated awesome) people no longer need pants, but there you have it. As you can imagine, this leaves me with the choice of either patching jeans and pants until there’s nothing left to them, or buying clothes that are too long and hemming them. Hemming something I’ve paid money for ticks me off, so I want to get it done and over with quickly. I developed a fast and easy way to hem jeans and pants.

First

Find a pair of pants that are a length you like. These will act as your template or guide. Lay them flat and smooth. If possible, I suggest pinning them down to keep them flat. Next, turn the pair of pants you’re going to hem inside out. Lay them on top of the pants that are the correct length.

Let’s begin

Choose a place on the leg of the pants where you’ll be okay with seeing a line. I often opt for the upper thigh. In that spot, pull the leg of the pants that are too long up, gathering the extra fabric in a straight fold that goes around the entire leg as you go. When the pants are the right length, pin this fold so that it comes directly out from the leg itself. Do this on both legs.

Almost done…

Sew around the fold to create your shortened pants, then cut off the extra fabric. Whip stitch around the cut edge for extra strength in the seam and reassurance that it won’t split apart while you’re wearing your new pants. Again, do the same thing on both legs.

Viola!

Hemmed pants, perfect for your height – no measuring or marking required. This is one of my favorite “sewing cheats” because it’s so quick and helps me buy pants and jeans affordably, even clothing companies no longer feel the need to cater to people my size. Give it a try next time you need to hem pants and let me know what you think!

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?