Creating with Batik Fabric

Creating with Batik Fabric

Hi Ya’ll, good to see you!

I hope you are well and staying out of the heat! It is definitely summer in Texas today!

The last time I wrote I hoped to inspire you to take a step or two out of your comfort zone and try some applique projects with a great tool called the AccuQuilt GO Fabric Cutter. I hope you checked them out here at SewingMachinesPlus.com for the one that would suit you the best.

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today. It is called Batik!

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today. It is called Batik!

The reason for my suggestion of trying “improvisational” quilting or one that you create yourself, is that it brings much satisfaction knowing that no one else has put together the fabric combinations that you love. the best.

Let us talk about my fabric obsession today!! It is called Batik!

What is Batik?

It is a hand dyed textile that is made using a wax resist technique to cover some parts of the fabric so they are not dyed with the color. Selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by drawing or brushing wax over them and the cloth then several colors are used to dye the fabric.*

Contemporary batik, may have etching, stencils and different tools for waxing and dying and use things such as leather, paper, wood, silk or cotton to use in techniques to make the most expressive and subtle of wax resist projects. Note from the pictures above, some look like the fabrics tie dyed and others have small details. Using various amounts of colors, the textile looks printed, but in fact it is hand drawn places of wax resist, it becomes a unique piece of art.*

Today, keeping in line with those thoughts, I want to share with you some beautiful fabric that would be a great choice for these fabric cuts to design a beautiful quilt, utilizing the shapes you can make with the AccuQuilt Fabric Cutter. To keep it simple at first, just blocks or basic shapes or strips can be easy to cut and sew in patterns that you can replicate for your own taste.

Let’s go through the design stages. That’s the most fun!

  1. Check out the internet for new ideas about quilts
  2. Purchase magazines on quilting at the bookstores or online
  3. Many of the patterns look complicated, however don’t get discouraged. They are only for inspiration right now
  4. Depending on your quilting experience, play with paper and pencil and come up with a simple pattern using a few different basic shapes. Perhaps blocks and triangles or perhaps all strips
  5. Perhaps all squares or rectangles, it’s all your design
  6. Study the batik fabrics available in online fabric stores and curate your own choices on a design board. It is good to make notes on the particular fabrics so you can go back and order the ones you really like. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find fabric you love in the local fabric stores (I personally have purchased many yards of fabric and precuts online with no problems. It is like Christmas every time I order. Sometimes I get surprises!)
  7. Then play with how these colors look good together. There is no right or wrong. It is your creation, your taste
  8. Leave the palette alone and come back to it to see if your color choices still suit you. If not, play some more
  9. Cut out color combinations from magazines that you admire. Once you are happy with your plan, look for fabric, order online or purchase
Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt.

Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt.

Start a small project, a table runner, a pillow, a tote bag or go for a quilt. Any of things will be something beautiful using Batik.

Now would be a great time to check your sewing supplies!

Take a look at your rulers, scissors, pins, rotary cutter blades, and other tools you frequently use. SewingMachinesplus.com has everything you need to make your next project look precise and professional. Besides the AccuQuilt Go, I value my collection of acrylic rulers and cutters for time saving cutting and more time for designing and sewing. Having the necessary tools makes the project more enjoyable as well!

As I said last time, I believe that if I strive to keep an attitude of “I am proud to use this, because I made it with my own design and it shows a part of me”, my positive attitude brings positive results. Find your Happy Place in sewing!

Until next time, discover Batik fabric and let me know what you think! Would I ever love to try making my own Batik fabric and using them in sewing!

Fabric for Filling Empty Wall Spaces

Fabric for Filling Empty Wall Spaces

Not so long ago, I had a series of plaques that I’d earned hanging on my wall above my bookshelf. Since then, the bookshelf was moved for the sake of rearranging my bedroom, and those same plaques were then hanging to the right side of my bed with a big space of emptiness below them. Now, because I had a concern about those plaques falling off the wall and onto the bed during the calm of a night’s sleep, I took them off of the wall altogether. And now?

Now, I have an even bigger empty space—one that exists from the ceiling to my bed.

Now, I have an even bigger empty space—one that exists from the ceiling to my bed.

Now, I have an even bigger empty space—one that exists from the ceiling to my bed.

Yawn

That’s boring. Very, very boring. It’s like my bedroom is incomplete, and I will potentially feel frustration over this until it’s covered and decorated as fully as the rest of the area is. So because I have such a distaste for the blankness of the wall, my mind has been perusing the possibilities as to what specifically could go on this space to fix the issue and therefore give me a more relaxed mentality in regard to this wall that’s so close to the right side of my bed.

My original idea for fixing my wall-is-too-empty issue was to hang a Marvel poster beside my bed, even though I know by experience that having a poster fall on you in the middle of the night can be a frightening experience. Why? Well, call me a child, but I still appreciate a good poster (and certain Marvel movies). It’s an easy fix that won’t give me a concussion if it falls at night, and it’s a cheap one if I buy the right poster. But then I got to thinking…

You see, I recently cleared out some clothes from the dresser, and if you’ve learned one thing about me through reading my posts on this blog, it could be that I’m cheap and like to make use of what I already have for fabric. So since I did that dresser-clearing, I have material right in my bedroom that can be used to create something to go on this too-empty wall to my right.

So since I did that dresser-clearing, I have material right in my bedroom that can be used to create something

So since I did that dresser-clearing, I have material right in my bedroom that can be used to create something

But what would that something be? That became the question, and through internet browsing, I’ve come up with two options I’d like to share with you.

Let’s brainstorm

The first of these possibilities is to create a wall quilt to hang there, one that’s a combination of the pieces of fabric that were banished from the dresser. Since I adore patchwork quilts, this option could be accomplished by the simple process of using similarly sized pieces of fabric for each block to compose something that’s bright and vivid—and an interesting touch to my wall décor. As I’ve covered patchwork quilts a number of times already on the blog, I won’t go into too much detail about how to make one. Just know that it’s a prospect, and time and effort could lead to a one-of-kind wall hanging to fix my problem through this method.

Beyond that though, I noticed a particular quilt idea that sparked an idea that moves away from the actual quilt theme. It was from a quilt that depicted a flower garden, and it occurred to me that the overall scene could be applied away from the quilt setting. How? You’d just need to assemble the pieces of the quilt project in separate formations and hang them on your wall instead of sewing them to the quilt. For instance, you could take a marker (use a fabric-friendly writing utensil!) and trace the patterns of flowers, butterflies, clouds, the sun, a house… Whatever you feel is appropriate for the scene you’re trying to showcase. Simple rectangles could be used to create a fence, or a combination of fabric types could come together to create something as intricate as a rosebush. Just imagine a hole fabric-created garden scene placed right on your wall!

Take a marker (use a fabric-friendly writing utensil!) & trace the patterns of flowers, butterflies, clouds, the sun, a house…

Take a marker (use a fabric-friendly writing utensil!) & trace the patterns of flowers, butterflies, clouds, the sun, a house…

In fact, this idea could be embraced for more than just using your fabric to cover up an empty space on your wall. You could use your old fabric to create holiday scenes, for example, for a sentimental touch to your decorations. If you only have red and white, you could make candy canes. Only blue? How about snowflakes?! A series of fabrics? Get to work on a gingerbread house! These individual pieces could be tiny projects that of themselves are beautiful and worth showing off, but when you bring them together, their appeal increases—a lot!

Fabric for Filling Empty Wall Spaces

Don’t overlook the prospect of constructing these tiny projects that come together for a bigger work of art! It’s like a quilt, but without the actual quilt part—which is a pretty interesting twist to me!

How to Sew a DIY Mattress Cover

How to Sew a DIY Mattress Cover

My husband and I sleep on a full-sized bed on 4” of high density foam that we bought from Keyston Brothers, a store that specializes in auto and marine foam and fabric (We use density type Q41 for anyone interested in doing the same). We find the foam lasts about five years before we need to replace it and for a full-sized mattress’ worth, it costs about $250. That is loads cheaper than a fancy mattress and we sleep like babies.

Sweet dreams!

Sweet dreams!

We discovered this foam when we were replacing the cushions in the v-berth of our sailboat. We lived aboard for almost eight years and slept amazingly. When we moved on land we decided to cut costs and stick with the foam. I made a custom cover for it but this frame we recently got from Ikea is smaller than the foam. See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges? My husband and I were getting rolled into each other at night so I knew I was going to have to take matters into my own hands.

See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges?

See how it curves down into the bed and up and over the edges?

Let’s get started

I took off the cover I had made and measured the foam to a size that would fit in the frame. Then I got out my $20 electric cutting knife from Walmart and got to slicing.

Take a deep breath. We're about to slice into our bed. Ready? Let's go!

Take a deep breath. We’re about to slice into our bed. Ready? Let’s go!

Upstairs, I cut the side piece (zipper piece) off of the top and bottom of the cover. Here are the two main panels laid out.

Here are the two main panels laid out.

Here are the two main panels laid out.

Zipper time!

I had finished all my seams with zigzag stitches and there was no way I wanted to take out all those stitches. Instead I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

I saved the zipper by just taking out the straight stitches holding it to the cover.

Zipper saved! Now I didn’t have to buy another one for the smaller sized cover.

Zipper saved!

Zipper saved!

Let’s sketch this out…

Math time! Here I had to work out the new size of the zipper plaque and the rest of the side facing. Plus I wanted to add handles this time so I measured out those too. I also cut the top and back panels to the same size as the foam that now fit in the bed frame.

Math time!

Math time!

I was all out of the original fabric I had used to make the mattress cover so I used some leftover Sunbrella scraps I had from another project. Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides and the handles.

Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides, & the handles.

Here are the parts I’ll need to piece together for the zipper plaque, the rest of the sides, & the handles.

I made quick work of the four handles and top stitched them for strength. The ends are unfinished as they’ll be sewn inside the cover.

I made quick work of the four handles & top stitched them for strength.

I made quick work of the four handles & top stitched them for strength.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque and side pieces together. I also made sure to zig zag stitch each join to prevent the fabric unraveling.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque & side pieces together.

Next I sewed the zipper plaque & side pieces together.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part. It means I’m getting close to being done. Here I’ve switched to a zipper foot so I can get super close to the zipper.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part.

Making the zipper plaque is my favorite part.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Next I sewed on the handles to one of the large panels.

Side facing

Now it was time to add on the side facing. Yes! I joined one end of the side panel to the zipper plaque and started sewing on the zipper plaque portion first. Then I just transitioned to the side piece and kept going all the way around.

Now it was time to add on the side facing.

Now it was time to add on the side facing.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning and joined the two ends. Then I trimmed off the excess, zig zag stitched the join, and then sewed that piece onto the bottom panel completely.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning & joined the two ends.

I stopped several inches before I got back around to the beginning & joined the two ends.

Pro tip: make sure you open up your zipper enough right now that you can get your hand through it to open it completely when turn this right sides out in a few more steps.

You are so close now!!!

You are so close now!!!

You are so close now!!!

Before you begin sewing on the top panel there are still two important things you need to do.

Create match up marks.

Create match up marks.

  1. Create match up marks. When you are working with large pieces of fabric, things have a tendency to shift. These marks will let you know you are joining the two pieces together where you should. If you look carefully you will see pink marks on either side of the fabric at the 19” mark. I marked the side pieces and then the top piece so everything should match up when I sew.
  2. Do your corners!!! This is crucial. Go to each corner and fold it down and back until you are sure the piece is square with each side. Then mark that spot so you know you’re at the actual corner when you get there.
Do your corners!!!

Do your corners!!!

Begin sewing your final panel to the cover. I like to put the panel that is being sewn on the bottom. Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

Here you can see I’ve matched my corners perfectly.

When you’ve sewn all the way around you are ALMOST done but not quite. There are two things to be done first.

  1. Take the time to carefully inspect ALL seams, fronts and backs. Sew anything you might need to.
  2. Then you need to zigzag stitch both seams in order prevent the fabric from unraveling.
You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come.

You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come.

Pat yourself on the back

You may think you have finished the hardest part, but the worst is yet to come. It’s time for cushion Olympics. Yes, wrangling foam into cushions should be an Olympic sport.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Go slowly. Do not pull the fabric or you will rip your seams and pop your zippers.
  2. Rather, walk the foam into the cover. I like to fold it on the ends and walk it a little sideways.
  3. Patience, patience, patience. Fit your foam into the pattern just the way you designed it. It you did your math right, it WILL fit.
Go slowly.

Go slowly.

After burning some calories (always a good thing), you will have your new mattress with custom fitting mattress cover that actually fits into your bed frame. Now you may rejoice.

Now you may rejoice.

Now you may rejoice.

Look at those clean lines!

Look at those clean lines!

Look at those clean lines!

Do you make your own bedding, including mattresses? We’d love to hear about your work.

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Sew a Small Purse Tutorial: Tiny Tasseled Tote

Sew a Small Purse Tutorial: Tiny Tasseled Tote

Here’s my own design for a small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

Small purse tutorial.

This elegantly simple bag is incredibly easy to sew and offers endless opportunities for embellishment.  It is tiny as totes go, but as a small purse it is offers plenty of space for all your essentials, with room to spare.  It features an outside pocket big enough for your phone or sunglasses, and two inner pockets, one sized for your ID and debit card.

I really wish I had an embroidery machine; if I did I would completely cover this small bag with colorful embroidery. Since I don’t, I decided to make mine understated and casual in all one color and with minimum embellishment.  I think this denim blue corduroy is nearly a neutral color and I know it will go with much of my wardrobe.

I want to buy some silk cord to make the tassel and make a bag like this in a dressier fabric, too. Keep tuned to this blog, as I will soon share another small purse tutorial for a variation on this bag that is a lot of fun to make, too.

Without further ado, here’s this small purse tutorial, suitable for beginner sewists:

Tiny tasseled tote small purse tutorial

You need fabric for the bag body and lining, a little bit of interfacing, and yarn for the strap and tassel.

Cutting instructions

Cut:

  • 2 bag body pieces (main fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • 2 bag lining pieces (second fabric) 7.5″ by 9″
  • (optional) 2 interfacing pieces  7″ by 8.5″
  • (optional) 1 interfacing piece 4.5″ by 8″
  • 2 main fabric pieces 5″ by 7″
  • 2 pieces second fabric 5″ by 7″
  • 1 piece second fabric 6″ by 9″

Step one is optional – interface or quilt

If you choose to add interfacing to your bag, do it now. Because my outer fabric was corduroy and the quilter cotton lining fabric less sturdy, I chose to interface the back of my lining fabric (7.5″ by 9″ inch rectangles).  If you use quilter cotton or other lightweight fabric for the outside of your purse, then interface that instead.  Also apply interfacing to one of the 5″ by 8.5″ rectangles.

Another option is to forego interfacing and quilt one layer of your bag, either the outside or the lining. Just quilt these now, before we move on to construction.

Make the outside pocket

Take one 5″ by 7″ piece of your main fabric, and a matching piece of the lining fabric and align these right sides together. Sew around all four sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ to turn right sides out. Clip the corners, turn, and press.

Now fold over the top about half an inch, press, and topstitch. I chose to press mine with the lining fabric forward, to show a bit of contrast on the outside of this otherwise plain blue bag. You can fold towards the inside though, if you’d rather not show off your lining fabric on the outside of your purse.

Center the pocket on one of the bag body 7.5″ by 9″ rectangles, with the hem you just sewed at the top of the bag. Sew the sides and bottom of the pocket to the bag body piece about 1/8″ from the pockets edges.

Make the inside pockets

Take the 6″ by 9″ lining fabric, and fold it right sides together to make a rectangle 4.5″ by 6″. Sew with a ¼ inch seam allowance along all three open sides, leaving an opening of at least 2″ for turning. Turn right sides out, press, and top stitch the opening closed.

Now fold one short edge of this finished rectangle upwards about 2 inches and press this fold line well. Then, center this pocket on one of the 7.5″ by 9″ bag lining rectangles, and sew the bottom and sides down on the lining fabric.

Inside pocket image.

Inside pocket image.

Sew the bag body and lining

Now take the two main fabric rectangles and put them right sides together.  Make sure the outside pocket is facing with the opening pointing up, then sew the side and bottom seams.

Then repeat for the bag lining pieces, again making sure the pocket opening is facing up before sewing the sides and bottom together. Set both bag and lining aside.

Make the tassel

Wrap yarn around the four outstretched fingers of hand about ten times. Tie the yarn together at the top of these loops with a short piece of yarn, then cut through all the loops at the bottom. Take another piece of yarn and wrap it around and around the strands, about half an inch from where you tied the yarn together at the top, then tie. Voila, a tassel!

How to tie a tassel.

How to tie a tassel.

Make the flap

Take one of the 5″ by 7″ pieces to your ironing board and place it right side down, aligned with the long edges horizontal and the short edges vertical. Then fold the bottom corners upward to make a point in the middle and press these fold lines well.

Tassel bag point image.

Tassel bag point image.

Then, cut along these pressed lines to make a triangle shaped piece for the flap. Cut a lining rectangle piece to match, too. Now, go back to your ironing board with these pieces. Fold  one of the edges you just cut to form the triangle back ¼ inch and crease this well with your iron. Repeat on the second triangle.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Tassel bag point crease image.

Now place the two triangles right sides together and sew together along the opposite side of the triangle from the side that you just creased. Clip the seam allowance from the triangle point, turn right sides out, align the creased seams you previously pressed, and press again.

Now insert the two short yarn tails from where you tied the yarn together at the very top of your tassel into the triangle point. Topstitch along the seam you just sewed, then topstitch to sew the side with the pressed seams closed, too, being sure to catch the yarn at the top of the tassel inside the seam.

The third side of the triangle flap remains open. Align this open edge with the top edge of the back side of your bag body, right sides together, and sew right along the edge to baste these pieces together.

Make your strap

To make the yarn strap, use 9 pieces of yarn about 4 feet long. Use 3 strands each to make three long braids, then braid these three all together. Secure ends by tying with another piece of yarn. Or opt to use ribbon or make a long fabric strap instead, if you prefer.

Final assembly

Take your main bag body and your bag lining body and insert one inside the other, with right sides together. The flap should be between the two bag bodies. Now place your strap inside, also between the two bag bodies, aligning each end with the side seams.

Use the free arm on your machine, and sew these together, leaving an opening to turn. You will sew the backside with the flap and the straps, and leave the opening in the front. Turn right sides out and push the lining side into the bag body. Now fold the edges of the opening inward, topstitch this opening closed, and you are done.

It’s reversible

Technically, this bag is reversible. Although, if I were going to reverse this bag, I would change the construction of the inner pocket. I wouldn’t want a debit card pocket on the outside of my bag. To do this, just omit the step of folding the inside pocket up to create the card pocket. Sew it on as a larger patch pocket instead, the same as you did for the outside pocket.

I hope you use this small purse tutorial to make one, too. What fabric will you use? How will you embellish yours?

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.

Sewing Super Power: Stereoscopic Vision

Sewing Super Power: Stereoscopic Vision

Are you one of those people who knows what an inch looks like without measuring?

I am. I also know what a ½ inch looks like and two inches and, well, honestly, most units of measurement from an 1/8 of an inch to about eight or ten feet.

I can also look at a photo of someone and determine how many inches shorter (or longer) his or her pant, shirt, jacket, or dress hem needs to be. And I can take a picture or drawing of a garment and recreate it with only that image as a reference.

I bet a lot of people reading this blog can do these things too.

I never thought too much about the why. It was just something I was always good at.

3D vision – no Oculus Rift needed

3D vision - no Oculus Rift needed

3D vision – no Oculus Rift needed

Well, this past week, a new scientific study was published at the University of California at Berkeley about how dressmakers were found to have “needle sharp” 3D vision.

3D vision is also referred to as stereoscopic vision, which is the ability of the brain to take 2D information and translate it into 3D. Depth perception is part of this equation, meaning stereoscopic vision is what allows us to thread needles, catch balls, and park cars (among a myriad of other things.)

It also means that some of us, those with especially keen stereoscopic vision abilities, are able to look at the distance between things and immediately calculate a correct (and often freakishly accurate) measurement.

There have been countless occasions when I’ve looked at a fitting photo of an actor with a hem pinned up and said, “Oh, I need to shorten that an inch and ½,” (or whatever) and someone else has said, “Let’s measure to make sure.”

And so we do. And I’m always exactly right.

In the same way, I can often walk into a fitting room – or even just watch someone wander by – and say, “That needs to be lengthened ¾” and the waist taken in an inch.”

And then I do the alterations without pinning and its correct.

Batman’s got nothing on me

Batman's got nothing on me.

Batman’s got nothing on me.

I’ve always just thought of it as one of my super powers. I believe everyone has a couple or three superpowers. The trick, sometimes, though, is figuring out what they are.

Adrien Chopin, the neuroscience researcher who conducted the 3D vision study, says that they’re still trying to figure out if tailoring and sewing sharpens stereoscopic vision or, if tailors and the like are drawn to the profession because of their enhanced “stereo-acuity”.

I’m definitely not a scientific researcher but I think it’s both of these things. My brain has always been adept at moving between the 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional worlds. I just never knew it had a specific name. And because I use this ability many times a day, I’ve become better and better at it to the point where my accuracy percentage is probably 99.9999999%.

Or something like that

I can also go from 3D to 2D quite easily, meaning I can look at a 3 dimensional object, like a garment (on or off a person) and know what shape it would be as a flat 2 dimensional pattern.

Chopin’s study goes on to say that people like surgeons and dentists have normally been assumed to have superior stereovision but that dressmakers and tailors in general had even more precise 3D vision abilities that those in the medical fields.

Kind of crazy, huh?

Take care to use your powers for good.

Take care to use your powers for good.

Chopin intends to study more extensively the stereoscopic superpowers of dressmakers. He says that a better understanding of the ability will help in efforts to train those with visual impairments like “lazy eye” to strengthen their 3D vision. He also believes that improved stereoscopic vision could be tantamount in training people in occupations that require precise hand-eye coordination like military fighters or athletes.

On the other end of the spectrum, some vision scientists think that painters often have poorer stereovision which is what gives them an advantage when working in a 2 dimensional world. Rembrandt, the 17th century Dutch painter, is thought to have suffered from stereo blindness.

I find all this quite fascinating. If you do to and want to read more in depth information about the study, you can see the whole report here.

And don’t forget to spend some time celebrating your own super powers, which, if you’re a tailor or seamstress, very likely include stereoscopic vision. Yay us!

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

Tips for Dazzling up a Ring Bearer Pillow

I can’t recall the first time I heard the phrase, “June bride,” but it’s something that’s stuck in my mind as the years have passed. While, to me, other months might present better options for a wedding (Sue me! I don’t like 90-degree weather!), June has somehow become what could arguably be the staple month for wedding ceremonies. Since we’ve entered that month, it seems fitting to target those ceremonies for a post or two. For this particular one, we’ll focus on a tiny wedding detail that can be handmade for that extra bit of sentimental value, and that’s the ring bearer pillow.

The ring bearer's pillow.

The ring bearer’s pillow.

For instructions on how to make a throw pillow in general, you can check out this link. But because pillows can be treated as such simple projects, I won’t discuss how to construct the actual pillow. Instead, I’ll concentrate on more decorative details in regard to the pillow’s appearance. These are aspects of the pillow that could come into play while you’re selecting fabrics and such—little concepts that you can do to construct something that stands out for your big day!

Choose your fabric wisely

The most important thing to consider for your ring bearer pillow is your fabric choice, and the most obvious option would fabric that has a bright white look to it. This matches the bride’s ensemble and showcases the brightness of the day, but if you want to go with something less traditional for your wedding, you might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

You might think a little outside of the box in regard to color.

For instance, I adore fairies in fiction and movies. If I were to have some kind of fairy garden theme to a wedding, it might make sense to use fabric options that are more creatively colored than basic white. Maybe a pale blue or a light green would work, or perhaps even a combination. It’s worth considering, overall, how your theme and wedding colors could be represented in the pillow for a unique look.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle.

Time to accessorize!

You might also want to consider accessories for the ring bearer pillow, and I don’t just mean the rings that will be carried on it! Fabric additions can be applied to the basic pillow structure to give it a more distinctive, lively look—things like lace, ribbon or tulle. Again, you can go with the basic white, or you can better pair the accessories’ hues with your theme or wedding colors if doing so feels like the right option.

Not only can these accessory decisions make your ring bearer pillow stand out that much more, but they can also be used as ways to fix technical errors. If you sew lace around the ends of the pillow, as an example, you might find that a spot where your stitches weren’t that fantastic on the actual pillow can be covered by the lace. If you accidentally punch a smaller hole on the top of the fabric, you can make sure that ribbon you have meeting in the middle to create a bow covers the error. Essentially, while prettying up your ring bearer pillow with visual elements, you could improve its appearance as well by making your mistakes less visually obvious!

And in regard to those accessories, don’t limit your options to fabrics either! Sometimes the smallest trinkets and gems can push a normal-level work into more amazing territory, and things like gems speckled around your ring bearer pillow or a pin that looks like a heart can create a simple elegance that adds a level of sophistication to the project. Another similar idea would be to use sequins that could catch the light of the event and shimmer to again mimic the brightness of the ceremony. Each of these embellishments are options that, if used in the right amounts and ways, could lead to a ring bearer pillow worth talking about at the reception!

Structure is key

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow - maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow –
maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape.

Keep in mind that even the construction of the pillow could highlight a particular quality that you want to embrace in your wedding if you’re going for something more modern and less traditional. Structural details that you could vary would be the shape of the pillow—maybe use a heart, oval, or star shape—as well as the face of the pillow itself. Instead of thinking, “How can I decorate this simple pillow,” you could make the top of the pillow its own design that doesn’t need any décor at all because the design is the décor—like a large flower, made of fabric, that covers the top. These decisions are structural elements that could create the unique, one-of-a-kind ring bearer pillow that you’re searching for to spice up your wedding!

So to give a sentimental touch to your wedding, turn this traditional addition to the ceremony into something homemade, unique, and fitting! It could add a splash of perfection to an already perfect day!

How to Sew Buttonholes

How to Sew Buttonholes

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes?

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes?

Have you been avoiding learning how to sew buttonholes? If you have, I don’t blame you, they used to freak me out too. I had a friend once who lightly scoffed at how averse I was to learning how to sew them. “They’re easy!” she admonished me and I tucked that away and kept reminding myself that they were easy.

What type do you need?

Finally, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on. It was time to learn.

I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on.

I had a project that I really needed to sew a buttonhole on.

My machine has seven different buttonhole options. I read the manual and I watched a lot of how-to videos before I determined the hole I wanted to use for this project. This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter. You can read about it here.

This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter.

This is a car seat poncho I made for my daughter to keep her warm in the car during the winter.

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds. Once I figured out how to use my buttonhole foot, truly I was unstoppable, and now I am the friend who can gently laugh and say, ‘buttonholes? They’re easy!’

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds.

I also used the buttonhole option on my machine to make these openings for curtains in one of my girl’s bunk beds.

Use a buttonhole foot

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment. It is the long, weirdly shaped one.

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment.

Most machines come with a buttonhole foot attachment.

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project. It is there to sew the buttonhole to the correct size that the button can fit through. Genius, eh?

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project.

The adjustable part in the back is where you’ll place the button you’ll be using on your project.

Your sewing machine manual is your friend

At first, you’re going to need your manual, or a really great how-to video. Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use. Pay careful attention to the Application portion. Is your fabric knit? Stretchy? Heavyweight?

Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use.

Your manual will tell you how to determine which buttonhole stitch to use.

Practice, practice, practice

Before you try a buttonhole for the first time, make sure you practice first! Don’t let your precious project be your battleground. Practice making the buttonhole on scrap fabric several times before you try on the real thing.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option. The most important thing I learned was to know exactly where I wanted the stitch to go and then to hold my foot down and not let it back up until the machine stopped itself. With modern machines, they do all the work for you. You just need to nail the placement and be patient.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option.

My manual even includes a visual of the way the buttonhole stitch will form with each stitch option.

Keyhole buttonholes

See the stitches that have little circles at the bottom instead of being perfect rectangles? Those are stitches for keyhole buttonholes. They are perfect for when you are using large, or heavy buttons; the circular shape at the bottom gives the button a place to rest in. Likewise, they are used for thick or furry fabrics, again to give the button more room to get through the hole.

Happy sewing. If you sew some buttonholes today, let us know!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Sometimes it is hard to think of a great gift to sew for dad. It might seem like endless project options come to mind for most any other recipient, but gift ideas to sew for men don’t come quite as easy. Between the holidays, his birthday, and Father’s Day, you need a few good gift ideas each year—and that’s if you only have one dad to sew for!

Gifts to Sew for Dad

To help solve this perennial problem, here’s a long resource list of ideas to sew for men, including your dad, your children’s dad, or any other dad you might love.

Pillowcase

I seem to list pillowcases in every gift idea post I write! That’s because they are easy to make in a hurry, everyone uses them, and none are as nice as those that you make. So they make a nice gift to sew for dad, too. My dear always loves a gift of a new pillowcase, especially for his jumbo XL long pillow. Last year, I made him one with Star Trek fabric, it is covered with line drawings of the Enterprise.  I used a vintage yard I’ve been saving and some vintage trim, too, and made him a new one today.

I think he'll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

I think he’ll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

Pajamas

Simplicity and other pattern makers make super easy to follow patterns for pajama pants. Or you can trace a favorite pair to make a pattern, or you can follow an online tutorial.  Make them extra nice by adding pockets and drawstring waist. My dear prefers these cut quite loose and made from plaid flannel shirting; these look great on him, too.

Handkerchiefs

Make these from soft cotton; they are nice in flannel, or even knit.  Use a serger to finish all sides. For knit fabrics, you don’t even have to hem them at all. To save a step, buy these pre-made and make them more fun with tie-dye or personalize them with embroidery.

Handkerchief detail.

Handkerchief detail.

Quilt

A quilt is a perfect gift to sew for dad. Make him a lap sized or larger quilt in his favorite colors if you know them. If not, you know he loves his college or pro team’s colors, or go with a muted and manly collection of scrap fabrics. My favorite quilt I made for a man was a corduroy scrap quilt, with brightly colored squares alternating with khaki squares in a Streak of Lightning pattern. Choose a high quality, super soft cotton flannel for the quilt backing, and use cotton batting for maximum comfort quilts.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Bedside or chair arm organizer

Sew an organizer pocket to go over the side of his chair and hold his remotes and things, or under his mattress to keep glasses and reading material safely at hand.

Comfy his couch

Besides making a quilt, you can make his couch even cozier with custom cushions, perhaps one which includes pockets for his remote. Or make him a cuddly plush sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

BBQ Apron / tocque / oven mitts

Use appliqué or a fun novelty fabric to make and personalize an apron just for him. I like this reversible pattern from Michael Miller fabrics best. Make the gift even nicer by pairing it with an easy-to-make, matching chef’s hat (tocque is the proper name for these) or an oven mitt.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Handyman apron

Help him around the house by sewing a full-coverage handyman apron or an easy pocketed waist apron for holding nails or a few tools.

First aid kit

Everyone needs one. You can make it roll-up style, or with a zipper.

Zip bag

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Make him a small and simple zippered pouch for holding his cufflinks and jewelry, sketching pencils, or other small items. For something a bit roomier, here is a tutorial for a boxy toiletries bag that will work well to sew for dad.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

Phone or glasses case

These are simple and easy to make. If you prefer, make a hanging charging pouch.

Tablet tote

This one is really easy to make; scroll down to see a manly looking option. The iPlaid is a good choice for a guy, or you could make one from scrap jeans.

Laptop sleeve or bag

If you can get your hands on his laptop to take measurements, then you can make this easy laptop sleeve in an hour or less. For something with a strap, make him a messenger style bag to fit his laptop.

Lunch bag

He’d probably rather not carry a cutesy lunch sack, so here’s how to sew a reusable brown bag with waxed canvas.

Wallet

Make it bifold or trifold. Or make him a simple business card wallet.

Other kits or bags

Make a tool roll or tool bag, a cord roll, a battery bandolier organizer, a monogrammed suede bag for his liquor bottle if he carries one to go, a shoe bag for travel. I’m making a patchwork quilted ukulele bag and a drumstick bag for my hubby this year. A soft padded guitar bag is a great idea, too.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

Cup, can, or bottle cozy

Here are free tutorials to sew these for a can, a bottle, or a coffee cup.

Keychain

Lanyard type key fobs make useful gifts. You can make them with webbing, leather, even recycled jean denim. Here is a neat tutorial that includes a way to make these with a zipper for a place to stash cash. Or make something else useful to hang hang on his keychain, like a chapstick cozy or earbud or iphone pouch.

CD visor or book

Plenty of dads still keep their music on CD. If yours does, you can sew him a place to hold them on his car visor. I made one with a patchwork dive flag and ocean blue fabrics for my diver dad. You can also use felt to make pocket pages and sew a folder or book for holding CDs.

Baby carrier

Dads love to wear babies, and babies love it when they do. For a new dad, make a sling type, mei-tai, or a toddler sized soft structured carrier in a manly color or fabric.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

Sporting gifts

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Hat

There are lots of ways to sew a hat. Here are tutorials and free patterns for a few different styles:

Shorts

Buy a simple pattern, or use my 10-minute way to make shorts. You can make the bandana style shorts in that link for men using four bandanas instead of two.  Just use two bandanas instead of one for each leg, and add side seams to sew these together. Add length at the rise with a matching or coordinating fabric, or cut a couple more bandanas in half and sew these at the top. Or choose a funky fabric and whip up some board shorts for him.

Tie / bowtie

Buy some silk and make him a stylish tie with a pocket square to match. Here are tutorials for a bow tie and how to add a secret wallet pocket to the back of any tie, too.

Scarf / cowl

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you probably won’t want to give dad a scarf for Father’s Day. But for winter holidays or birthdays, a scarf or cowl makes a great gift.

Do you have other ideas?

I am sewing all my Father’s Day gifts this year. What about you? Which of these ideas will you sew for dad? If you know any good gifts to sew for dad or men that aren’t on this list, please add them by commenting below.

Sewing on Trucks, Cycling with Sewing Machines

Sewing on Trucks, Cycling with Sewing Machines

This past week, I got a call to tailor and do some fittings for my friend Matthew, who is the Costume Designer for TBS’s Search Party. I love working for Matthew. He’s sweet and fun and his design choices are quirky, a lovely mix of vintage and high end with a bit of funk blended in.

Search Party doesn’t have the budget for a full time tailor, so Matthew only calls me in for days when he’s doing a lot of fittings or he has a pile of alterations that he needs completed for the next couple weeks of filming.

Day playing

Day playing, which is what we in the film business call working for a day or two on a show when extra help is needed, can be an enjoyable experience (it can also be annoying but I try my best to avoid those types of day playing gigs). Search Party is pretty much always a positive experience, mainly because of Matthew and the people he has working for him.

So, I was happy to get the call, even though it involved going all the way to Red Hook (a neighborhood in Brooklyn sadly lacking in convenient public transportation access) and sewing on a cramped Wardrobe Truck.

The inadequate subway connection was easily solvable: I’d ride my bike just as I do most places in the city, except that I needed to bring a sewing machine and basic sewing supplies with me. Tailor day playing assignments almost always involve dragging your machine and kit through the streets, and usually not on a bicycle.

I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack.

I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack.

But, a few months ago, I received an unexpected gift from REI. I’d ordered a tent for some planned bike packing adventures but, instead, received a backpack (definitely not a tent). REI costumer service was very helpful when I called, said they’d send the tent straight away and would email me a pre-paid return label to ship the backpack back (back…). About twenty minutes after I hung up, they called back to say never mind, keep the backpack for free.

I don’t know what made me try it, but a couple weeks after that, I discovered that my favorite freakishly lightweight Brother sewing machine fit perfectly into the backpack. Brilliant! Here are some photos. If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

If you’re interested in which backpack it is, it’s the Osprey Comet.

I packed a few other things in the backpack with the machine (there was still more space!) – shoulder pads, interfacing, and lining scraps, a bag of thread, and some other not very heavy notions. The rest of my supplies, the scissors and more threads and gallon bag of elastics and tapes, I packed into my Revelate Seat Bag that I purchased from my favorite local bike shop. And I was good to go, albeit not very quickly (cause all that gear was a bit heavy)…

The lion, the witch and the Wardrobe truck

Sewing in small spaces on a Wardrobe truck where a whole crew of other people are also trying to do their jobs presents its own set of challenges. Working on the Search Party truck even more so as they use the dreaded split Wardrobe/Hair/Makeup style of 18-wheeler film truck. Most productions have separate trucks for Wardrobe and Hair/Makeup and twice as much space but smaller productions who are trying to save money go with the split trucks. What this means is that there is even less space than normal.

I set up my machine on the front corner, the sink and washer/dryer on my right and the busy Wardrobe Supervisor and her computer on my left. A few feet away, one of the customers steamed and ironed the clothes for the next day and, in the back of the truck Matthew and his assistant did fittings with various cast members. Occasionally, the set costumer was also on the truck gathering things for the next scene, as well as the shopper dropping off or picking up items.

High chair

I had a chair that was too high for the counter. I’d have to crouch in order to sew while sitting in it. Below the counter were drawers so there was no convenient place to put the foot pedal. I ended up standing up to sew, my leg turned out to the right to operate the pedal from a side-saddle angle. The foot kept getting stuck under the lip of the bottom drawer so that the machine would continue to sew even after I’d taken my foot off. I had about two inches of empty space to the left of my machine before the supervisor’s notebooks and computer and the cord from the iron kept falling (along with a bunch of my pins) into the sink to my right. I had to shift position slightly every time someone needed to fill or empty the washer and dryer.

But, it was still a wonderfully pleasant work-day. Because we were all in good spirits and we all worked together, happily jockeying for space, seamlessly adapting to each other’s needs, laughing when we all seemed to need to occupy the same twelve inches of space at the same time, all of us just getting our jobs done.

Things don’t always work this well on a crowded wardrobe truck. Sometimes people forget that everyone’s jobs are important and necessary to the project. Sometimes people are cranky because of lack of sleep, or stress, or just because it’s their nature. But it doesn’t have to be that way and, if you ask me, it shouldn’t. Making TV does not, after all, have anything to do with curing cancer or launching rocket ships (sometimes people forget that!).

One of the most wonderful things is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. Its also a pretty good way of getting things done! I highly recommend it. 🙂