Cactus & Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

Cactus and Succulent Fabrics for You to Love

California’s deserts are super blooming right now thanks to a long and wet winter. While we still have over 15 feet of snow in the ground here in Mammoth Lakes, California, I am not immune to dreaming of spring and the beauty of a flowering desert.

With that in mind, I give you NINE fabric lines featuring cacti, succulents, and the beauty of the high and low deserts.

Desert blooms

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

First we start with Rae Ritchie’s debut collection, Desert Bloom.

Lovely llamas

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

If you are looking for something with a little more ‘prickly’ whimsy, check out No Drama Llama by Dear Stella House Designer.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

Not satisfied with the selection of llamas above? Don’t fret, here are more Lovely Llamas by Michael Miller.

California dreaming

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry, and the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Hawthorne Thread’s Palm Springs line brings us deep into California with cacti, lizards, geometry & the sweeping vistas of a desert skyline.

Joel Dewberry’s Cali Mod fabric continues with the California theme. He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant and metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

He absolutely knocks it out of the park with images of succulents that look like a Warhol painting, and vibrant & metallic colors combined.

Back into the desert

The next two lines are both by Hawthorne Threads and they each coordinate with the other, as well as with Palm Springs above. Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

Here you have Mojave by Hawthorne Threads.

And this is Coyote, also by Hawthorne Threads. They basically have the market cornered on any type of desert, cacti, or succulent-themed fabric you could want. The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt and wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

The motifs make me want to sew a super lightweight quilt & wrap myself in it on a porch somewhere in Joshua Tree as I watch the sunset.

Heading to Arizona

Bari J. Ackerman’s fabric line, Sage, moves us from the California deserts to her home state of Arizona. These fabrics are individually works of arts, together, they are really visually stunning. The maximalist floral and fruit prints combined with repetitive patterns, bright colors, cacti, and desert animals render me incapable of picking a favorite fabric. I love and want them all!

I love & want them all!

I love & want them all!

Succulence

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine and Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line. The only plants I can keep alive are succulents; it’s nearly impossible to kill them. They thrive in amazing conditions. Bonnie has paid homage to this amazing ability to survive with even tiny amounts of water in this retro-inspired line of succulent fabrics.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Lastly you have Bonnie Christine & Art Gallery Fabric’s Succulence line.

Did I miss any? Do you have any other favorite cacti, succulent, or desert-inspired fabrics you love? Let us know about them in comments!

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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.
What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

What’s In Style for Spring Sewing?

Spring sewing for your wardrobe is one of the best ways to chase away the end of winter woes.

What’s in style and on trend? What should you sew for this year?

What's In Style pin

Spring sewing: what’s still in style

There a few trends that popped up last year that we saw again this year on Spring runways, namely:

Lingerie-inspired fashions

Romantic and baby doll style lingerie continues to be a fashionable influence, with nightgown style dresses, both short and long, and even pajama styles being featured by many designers this year.

New this year to this category are wraps and dresses that mimic menswear-style silk robes.

Paper bag waists

These came back last year and we are still seeing them now. Luckily for us, they are easy to sew, especially for elastic waist skirts and pants. Just fold over the top of your garment an inch or more farther than you would normally fold over for an elastic casing, sew a line of stitching slightly lower than the fold to create the casing, insert your elastic, and voila.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Or sew a paper bag neck; higher necklines are on trend this year, too.

Metallic shimmer and shine

Metallics started popping up everywhere last year, and these are still in now. You can sew most any garment in a lamé or other metallic fabric now.

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Gold lamé? More like gold fabulous!

Midi lengths

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year. We also see midi length cropped pants and jumpsuits cut to this length now.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

The flattering midi-length skirt is still where it’s at this year.

Pleats

Last year we saw these primarily as small, accordion style pleats. This year, these are still in style. But so are pleats of slightly wider widths.

Plaids

Where large plaids were the rage last year, this year the trend is toward smaller plaids. You’ll also see a mixing and matching of similar plaids in differing scales worn together.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it's at this year.

Forget the large plaids; small plaids are where it’s at this year.

Florals

Florals are usually everywhere in Spring. This year, they are trending a few different ways. Designers continued last year’s trend of using small scale florals in romantic, feminine style, though they’ve sometimes paired them with edgier pieces. The small scale romantic florals are particularly popular for jumpsuits now.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Larger, 70’s style florals are also popping up all over this year.

Ruffles

Large and wide ruffles continue to trend this year. Use these on blouses, skirts, and dresses.

Stripes

Stripes were featured widely last year, and they are still big. We saw stripes on Spring runways this year in different ways. Vertical stripes in navy or black and white are in, and so are colorful, wide horizontal rugby stripes.  Pinstripes also featured widely in men’s shirt style dresses.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

Use black & white stripes vertically this year.

What’s New for Spring sewing 2017

Embroidery and embellishments everywhere

You can put your embroidery machine and embellishment software to good use in your Spring wardrobe now.

You can embroider any garment this year.

You can embroider any garment this year.

We saw embroidered motifs here and there last year, but it is more widely featured this year. Designers paired embroidered vests with embroidered pants and emblazoned dresses and blouses with heavy embroidery. Handbags especially were covered with embroidery designs this year.

Bags, blouses, dresses, jackets, and pants also saw lots of beading and sequins in designers’ Spring collections. From beaded and sequin designs such as florals to covered sleeves, embellishments are on trend.

Bold prints

Besides the kitschy 70’s style florals already mentioned here, other 70’s style prints are in. Also make use of graphic geometric prints this year, especially large scale prints.

Higher necklines

Mock turtlenecks are in, even on bathing suits. Boatneck styles are cut higher than usual, too, right at the neckline.  For necklines cut a bit lower, designers paired these with silk scarves wrapped tightly around the neck, to imitate the turtleneck style.

Pair dresses with less coverage, such as spaghetti straps, with higher necked tops worn underneath.

Shoulders out

There are also plenty of shoulder-baring styles this year. Off the shoulder cuts are popular, especially for peasant blouses and dresses.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Off the shoulder peasant top.

Hopefully you still have the patterns you bought in 2011, because one shouldered designs are in again. One sleeved styles are trending, too.

A-line mini skirts

Cut these on the bias. A-line minis are my absolute favorite skirts to sew; I’ll share how to draft your own pattern for a perfectly fitting bias skirt here on the blog soon .

Sheers

Sheer skirts over leotard style tops. Even sheer hoodies!

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Sheers and cutouts are big this year, along with higher necklines.

Glam

In tribute to David Bowie, 80’s style glam is trending now, especially with puffed-at-the shoulder sleeves and wide ruffles.

Flared hems

Both ankle flare pants hems and bell sleeved blouses are in style now.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Flared bell sleeves on a one-shouldered design.

Jumpsuits

Here is another major way what was hot in 2011 is back again today. Jumpsuits are big now, in all lengths, particularly wide legged midi styles, in floral prints.

Patchwork

Runways this year featured patchwork dresses of all kinds. From a mix of solids reminiscent of Amish quilts, to patchworks of patterns and florals, any kind of patchwork can work in your Spring sewing and wardrobe this year.

Feathery fringe

Feathery fringe is everywhere now, from necklines and sleeves to bags, even dresses covered in tiers of brightly colored feathered fringe.

Feathery trim.

Feathery trim.

BIG bags

While smaller handbags with heavy embroidery are in style, super XL bags are all the rage.

Spring sewing: color trends

Spring sewing: color trends

Besides the florals, bold patterns, and stripes trends already discussed, here are the color trends for this season:

  • Khaki – it’s everywhere
  • Pinks – pale pinks, mauves, raspberry
  • Blue – all shades of blue, especially several different blues worn together
  • Neutrals – these are featured more often than usual this year
  • Gold – metallics are hot in general, but especially gold
  • Yellow – while orange was hot last year, yellow seems to be the it color this year
  • Neons – these bright colors are coming back again now
Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

Yellow & blue are both hot colors now.

I’m excited that patchwork and embroidery are trending now, and I’ll be adding more of these pieces to my closet. On the other hand, in style or not, you’ll never see me wearing yellow, gold, or feathery fringe!

Which of these styles are you excited to sew for your wardrobe now and which trends would you rather skip?

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

Sewing lovers get their own version of March Madness! If you’ve been wanting to buy a new sewing machine, upgrade your current machine or purchase a different type of sewing machine March is the time to do it.

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

March Madness – It’s Not Just for Basketball Fans

With the amazing sale at SewingMachinesPlus.com you can save up to $400 on the sewing machine you’ve been lusting after since last year.

As an added bonus, you’ll get FREE shipping on all orders over $49 – every day! And an additional 10% off qualifying items. Take a look at a sampling of the sewing machines included in this fabulous March Machine Madness Sale.

HQ Sweet Sixteen Long Arm Quilter with True Stitch Regulator

This quilting machine is ideal for quilting projects of any size while seated. The throat space is large enough to handle a king size quilt! The easy to use touch screen makes it easy to choose your stitches and easily access them the next time while the unique light ring brightens the area being quilted with 28 LEDs. One of several patent-pending features on the Sweet Sixteen is a low bobbin alert. You’ll never run out of bobbin thread and not know it again.

Singer 4432 Heavy Duty Extra-High Speed Sewing Machine

This machine is a workhorse! The heavy-duty metal frame stands up to daily use and provides skip-free sewing. The stronger motor enables you to sew through heavy weight fabrics without a problem. Its complimented by the adjustable pressure foot lifter meaning you can sew lightweight and heavy fabric easily. And buttonholes are no longer a struggle with the automatic 1-step buttonhole feature.

Every March Machine Madness purchase comes with optional no interest financing at the sale price. And just like all purchases from SewingMachinesPlus, you’ll get a lifetime of support from the talented customer service crew.

Check out the full line of products on sale at sewingmachinesplus.com!

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Last week, I told you about my dream sewing room furniture. This week, I want to share with you my must have sewing supplies. And no, I don’t actually own all of them since I don’t yet have that dream sewing room. Call this my dream sewing supplies list, I guess.

Must Have Sewing Notions and Supplies

Dress Form

I adore making cute summer sundresses. Right now, I measure myself, cut along what I hope are the right lines in the pattern and hem it by hanging the dress on closet hanger. Not ideal, but so far at least, they’ve all come out fine. I’d love a dress form though so I could check the fit and make minor tweaks and modifications as I go. I’m kind of between dress form sizes right now, so I’d have to make a call on which size to get – or if money was really no object, just get both!

Amazing Sewing Scissors

Alright, so I do have a pair of fabric scissors. I couldn’t consider myself a sewer if I didn’t. But I don’t love them. The handles are hard plastic and someone (not naming any names) used them to cut paper at some point, which kind of screwed up the cutting surface. I’d really love a pair of fabric scissors with a softer handle, especially since breaking my right hand last year. Even better, the ones I linked to have a purple handle! That’s my favorite color. Definitely on my sewing supplies wish list.

How about you?

Long Ruler

I don’t necessarily need to cut long, straight lines making sundresses, but I do need to measure long stretches of fabric to line up pattern pieces. Right now, I use a soft measuring tape. I pin it down on one side and pull it taut to measure. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. A yard stick or long ruler would go a long way towards making measuring easier.

What’s on your sewing supplies wish list? Sewing Machines Plus probably has it! Check out the website and let yourself dream.

How to Store Your Fabric Scraps

How to Store Your Fabric Scraps

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move.

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move.

It only took me six months, but I finally organized my fabric scraps after our move to this new town and new house. When we made the move, I dumped my two huge bins of scraps into a few shopping bags and tucked them away until this glorious moment when they would not only be sorted, but have a place to reside.

Bits and pieces

Why should one keep & organize fabric scraps?

Why should one keep & organize fabric scraps?

Why should one keep and organize fabric scraps? Here are some reasons to consider.

  1. Fabric is expensive. Long sized strips, and smaller pieces can be reused for a vast amount of projects. The internet is a trove of fabric scrap project ideas.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. The reverse of this is true as well. When you have your scraps visible, you are much more likely to use them and be aware of what you have available.
  3. Have a favorite color? It probably shows in the types of fabric you buy. Take a look at your pile of scraps and try to use up more of that color before you buy a few more yards.
  4. Many people cut their scraps to standard sizes. If you have a size of fabric you constantly seem to go to, make your life easier by making your own pre-cuts out of scraps.

Scrap bags

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps.

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps.

I ultimately made 9 bags of folded scraps. They included the following (from left to right):

  1. All of my precut Layer Cakes (10” x 10” squares)
  2. All of my other-sized precuts
  3. Pinks
  4. Whites
  5. Yellows, tans and oranges
  6. Greens, teals and aquas
  7. Blues and purples
  8. Heavy duty fabric scraps (canvas, Sunbrella, etc)
  9. Utility fabric scraps (batting, white out fabric, mesh, etc.)

One of these things is not like the others…

Bag #10 holds all of my selvage edges & very thin strips of fabric.

Bag #10 holds all of my selvage edges & very thin strips of fabric.

There is also a 10th bag (but it didn’t fit well in the group photo above). This holds all of my selvage edges and very thin strips of fabric. I have a huge wish list of projects to make from selvage edges. Perhaps I’ll write a post soon showing you the world of possibility with saving those thin strips!

A place of and for my own making

Welcome to my fabric corner.

Welcome to my fabric corner.

This is my fabric corner. The upper shelves hold my larger stash of fabrics, so pieces that are a fat quarter size or larger. The lower shelves hold my iron on top, and my fabric scraps in the bins below.

Dirty little secret: I just tuck larger pieces in wherever I find room.

Dirty little secret: I just tuck larger pieces in wherever I find room.

I’d love to tell you that I have my larger pieces organized in some kind of fancy way, but I really don’t. I just tuck them in wherever I find room.

Behold! A place for everything & everything in its place.

Behold! A place for everything & everything in its place.

Can you see how lovely the organization of these scraps is? The easy access and keeping them visible by my work space means I’m often including them in my daydreaming when it comes to new sewing projects.

Do you store your fabric scraps? If so, tell us where or how you do!

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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.
What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

What You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Thread

Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!


Choose the right type of sewing thread for your next project

Any sewing enthusiast knows that a seam is only as good as the thread that holds it together. From polyester to silk, the type of thread you choose for your next project can leave you happy — or horrified. Luckily, we’ve put together a brief rundown of five popular types of thread, so that next time you’re at the fabric store, staring down hundreds of spools, you can confidently pick the right one for the job.

Cotton thread

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has "give" — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

Cotton thread is washable & wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing & appliqué projects.

A common “go-to” for many sewing enthusiasts, cotton thread is washable and wearable but has “give” — which makes it great for quilting, piercing, and appliqué projects. Keep in mind, though, that the lower the weight, the heavier and thicker the thread. If your next project is a thin blouse or lingerie set for example, consider using 50 weight cotton thread: this thin thread has less bulk, so your seams will lay flatter. For an “all-purpose” quilting thread, a middle-of-the-road 40 weight cotton thread is ideal (for both machine and long-arm quilting); it’s thin enough to glide easily through thick fibers, but strong enough to secure your quilt. Finally, a 30 weight cotton thread has the thickness necessary for dramatic accents in topstitching and quilting stitches.

Rayon thread

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

Rayon is relatively inexpensive & provides a decorative finish with shine.

The most commonly used thread for embroidery, rayon is relatively inexpensive and provides a decorative finish with shine. Rayon thread also has high tensile strength: it doesn’t break easily and is very stretchable and flexible, even when wet. However, rayon is usually not colorfast and often fades or bleeds from fabric.

Polyester thread

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great "all-purpose" choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- & machine-sewn.

Stronger than rayon thread, polyester thread is a great “all-purpose” choice that can be used for most sewing projects, both hand- and machine-sewn. Polyester thread has some “give” to it, so unlike cotton, it won’t break when you use it with stretchy fabrics; polyester thread also remains bright after several washes. If you need a thread that will slip through fabric easily, you can also choose a glazed polyester thread, which will have a wax or silicone finish. It’s important, however, to avoid using glazed threads for machine-sewn projects, because the glaze can rub off and jams your machine.

Metallic thread

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

Designed for embroidery, quilting, & decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs.

If your handbag needs touching up, metallic thread may be the perfect choice. Designed for embroidery, quilting, and decorative stitching projects, metallic thread can be used to create beautiful topstitching designs. Often available in gold, silver, and copper varieties, metallic threads are smooth, strong and vibrant.

Silk thread

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of "give," silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Thin but strong & flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

When sewing silk or wool fabrics, silk thread is the obvious choice. Thin but strong and flexible with a lot of “give,” silk thread is also ideal for basting stitches and tailoring curved areas.

Now choose wisely

Overall, the key to a durable and professional-looking finish is choosing a high-quality thread that closely matches the weight and fiber content of the fabric you’re working with. Take it from us: using the perfect thread will make sewing your next project that much more enjoyable.


Click the image to get your thread!

Shop Thread Now!

Shop Thread Now!

Ironing out the Ironing Details

Ironing out the Ironing Details

Random fact: My family does not like ironing.

We’re the type of people who, if something is wrinkled, minutes in the dryer are the way to work on the issue.

We’re the type of people who, if something is wrinkled, minutes in the dryer are the way to work on the issue.

Seriously. We’re the type of people who, if something is wrinkled, minutes in the dryer are the way to work on the issue. That being said, my hobby/profession of sewing is a bit contradictory for such an I-don’t-love-irons approach because an iron can be such a significant part of the sewing process.

Pressing seams, for instance, could add to the professional look of your project, and ironing your fabric before you sew can help to create more equal blocks and pieces. All in all, if you don’t iron, your product might look less impressive than you want it to, and with all the work you invest, taking the small steps to create a wonderful product could be worth the effort!

I come from an anti-iron family.

I come from an anti-iron family.

But given that I come from an anti-iron family, the idea of embracing the step can be daunting. Even picking an iron could pose a problem because there’s such a range of options. When you literally have thousands of options to choose from, selecting that right one could be a complex process. Do I get the pretty blue one, or should I pay the extra $50 for that name-brand one? What kind of features do I need, and what ones will I never use? Is this iron going to break in a month, or will it last me for years? These are the kinds of things worth considering should you choose to buy a new — and fitting — iron for your sewing.

Note: With my nerd interests, all of this anti-iron business could potentially be overlooked if I owned an Iron Man iron like the one seen here.

Note: With my nerd interests, all of this anti-iron business could potentially be overlooked if I owned an Iron Man iron like the one seen here.

Anyway. I did some research this week on iron-related topics, and I came up with a list of what I felt were the most important qualifications for an iron and the preferred method of selecting that sewing tool.

Price

Hey, remember me? I’m the cheapskate who blogs about saving money on sewing projects! Of course — of course — cheaper isn’t always the overriding criterion for an iron because sometimes things are cheaper for a reason. Maybe the $10 iron has no special functions to help you. Maybe it’s made of bad materials and will leave an imprint on your fabric. Maybe it’ll fall apart in five minutes. The point is that this is NOT the only detail worth considering, but if you can find an iron that suits your purposes for $30, why pay hundreds?

Functions

As I said, price can be overshadowed by functions that your iron can bring to the ironing board. For sewing, I don’t know that there’s a more important function than releasing steam to better tackle wrinkles in fabric. Basically, if you see an iron that doesn’t release steam, you might want to keep looking! Another detail you might want to think about is if your iron automatically shuts itself off after a span of time. While this might be an aspect that doesn’t concern you in the least because you’re so careful with your iron, if there’s a chance you’ll forget and leave your iron going, I would recommend trying for an iron that’ll automatically shut off. That choice could prevent a fire, after all!

Build

More than one source that I found mentioned older irons — “vintage” or “antique.”

More than one source that I found mentioned older irons — “vintage” or “antique.”

In a world where smaller technological devices can steal the spotlight, believe it or not, heavier can be a good thing for an iron when it comes to pressing seams! More than one source that I found mentioned older irons — “vintage” or “antique.” And it makes sense because that extra weight could make it easier to smooth out your seams with a smaller amount of effort. So should you completely fall back on your grandma’s iron from the 1800s? Not necessarily! Remember what I said about steam? But that doesn’t mean that a secondary iron for this purpose can’t benefit you, especially since you can buy used ones for such small prices (like, less than $10). For a brand new iron though, thinking about that extra weight could lead you to the right iron, as could other details like whether or not it uses a cord. As a person who can forget something is plugged up and trip over a cord fairly easily, I think cordless might be a good option for me!

And, now that we’ve labeled some of the most important traits for an iron, the situation comes down to how you can find that perfect iron even after you narrow down your options by price, function, and build. My main recommendation for this step would be to read customer reviews and try for something that received a high average rating. You might also want to look at how many reviews the product has since a 4.5 rating over 5000 reviews provides more credible feedback than a 3.0 rating out of 2 reviews. Why? As an example, a 5.0 rating could’ve been lowered by a 1.0 rating from someone who was criticizing the seller rather than the product.

Look for irons that have a lot of reviews, read through them for details that fit your needs, and pay very real attention to the average ratings. If you do, you could have the right information to find the perfect iron for your products.

Design Your Dream Sewing Room

Design Your Dream Sewing Room

I’ve never been lucky enough to have a whole room dedicated to sewing. I’ve always kept my sewing machine and accompanying needs in a closet and pulled them out when needed. For a few hours, while I sew something, the machine takes up the dining room table. I also use the table for cutting and measuring. If it’s larger pieces, the floor gets called into action as a cutting surface. That hasn’t stopped me from thinking about what my dream sewing room would look like. Here’s what I’ve come up with. How does it align with your dream sewing room idea?

Storage

Organization and storage are critical in a sewing room. I’m not a fan of tangled thread spools or bobbins I can’t find. I hate having to search for my measuring tape and it really irks me when someone “borrows” my fabric scissors and uses them on something else. I bet you know that feeling! So, the first thing my dream sewing room would have is a way to organize all those supplies in a tidy and efficient manner. Something like this cabinet. I also adore this thread tray.

Sewing Table

It needs to be sturdy and stationary. I’m not a fan of things rolling away from me while I try to work.

Next, I’d want the perfect place for my sewing machine to sit permanently rather than pulling it out each use. It needs to be sturdy and stationary. I’m not a fan of things rolling away from me while I try to work. It also needs to be open in the back so I can stretch my legs without banging my knees or feet. Something like this adjustable height table would be ideal for me.

Cutting Surface

The final piece of furniture my dream sewing room needs is a cutting surface. I want it sturdy and stable, but also with the ability to measure and pin to. I’ve created this ideal using two pieces. First, a sturdy table with side extensions. I love that I can drop one or both sides down if I’m working on a smaller project. Second, a cutting mat. By laying this on top of the table and fastening it down with glue or Velcro or double sided tape, I’ll have a sewing surface with the ability to measure built in.

You may notice I didn’t include a chair. That’s because I already have my ideal sewing chair and it happens to live in my dining room.

What does your dream sewing room look like?

How to Sew Faster

How to Sew Faster

My job as a tailor on a television show often requires me to complete an alteration in a seemingly impossible amount of time. Not to be overly cocky or self-congratulating but, I can be pretty fast when needed. People frequently ask me how I’m able to do something so quickly.

Don’t hesitate. Just, do.

Honestly, I don’t think so much about it anymore: its pretty much second nature at this point. But, I suppose if I were to break it down, the process would go something like this:

First, don’t panic. Whatever you do, don’t panic. If you do, you could find that suddenly you’re unable to thread a needle, or your needle breaks, or the thread tangles.

Second, don’t hesitate. Just, do.

As you’re working, think about the next step. Plan ahead.

Concentrate fully on what you’re doing. Don’t listen to the conversations going on around you. Pay no mind to whatever random chaos might be happening in another part of the room. Just focus your full attention on the one thing you are doing. That is all that is important.

Whatever you do, don’t thread mark. I know that’s what they teach in sewing school but there is no reason to have to thread mark a pant hem.

A few tips on how to sew faster:

Do as much as you can without stopping to iron.

If I’m really pressed for time, I tend to leave all the ironing until the very end (pun intended).

Learn how to eyeball measurements. Think about it, if you’ve been sewing long enough, you know what a ½” looks like. You honestly do not need to mark every single little line. If you want to measure, go ahead, put use your pins to mark the line. I often work with a metal seam gauge but rarely actually draw a new stitching line. One exception is if I’m re-mitering a suit jacket sleeve corner though I know lots of tailors that do not need to draw that line either.

Whatever you do, don’t thread mark. I know that’s what they teach in sewing school but there is no reason to have to thread mark a pant hem. I once had an additional tailor helping me on a show who insisted on thread marking the fold line on hems for cop pants. Buy some tailor’s chalk and use that to mark your hemline. It’ll disappear when ironed.

Unless you’re topstitching, you really don’t have to have your thread match exactly. Believe me. Whatever thread is in your machine is just fine. I cannot begin to tell you how many black garments I’ve altered quickly with red or yellow or whatever happened to be in the machine colored thread.

Learn how to undo a chain stitch. A lot of manufacturers use chain stitches in clothing construction. This makes it super easy to take them apart when needed. You can only unravel a chain stitch in one direction, the direction it was sewn in. Most of the time, all you need to do is insert a seam ripper and pull in that direction and all the stitching will come undone. The center back seam of men’s pants, often will have two rows of stitching so you’ll need to pull each row separately.

A couple other seam deconstruction tips:

To take apart a serged seam, use a nice sharp seam ripper and run it through the threads that wraps around the edge of a seam. After you do this, the rest of the threads will usually come apart rather quickly. Some serged seams are on a chain as well and you can undo them by pulling the thread on the straight stitch.

One of the fastest ways of taking apart a seam is to, again, use an extremely sharp seam ripper and insert it into the seam from the right side and just pull upwards through the seam. This technique takes a bit of practice (and bravery) though as the potential to accidentally slice through the fabric is ever present. There’s a knack to getting the angle of the seam ripper just right though and once you figure that out, you’re golden.

In the end, the one sure way of becoming a faster tailor is by practice. The more often you repeat the same task, the more efficient at it you become.

As you do an alteration, try to think of ways you could save time: do you really need to flip everything back right side out then inside out then right side out again? Probably not. If you sew this first, will it make it easier to sew this? Or visa versa? Experiment and try things multiple ways until you’ve figured out the quickest sequence of steps for yourself.

I love discovering a new, faster way of doing something I’ve done a million times. Sewing is kind of cool like that: there’s always something more to learn and fresh tactics to uncover.

Embroidery Software and Designs Guide

Embroidery Software and Designs Guide

There is a wide array of embroidery software and design choices available

Embroidery Software Pin

Embroidery Software Pin

When I shared an embroidery machine buyer’s guide last week, I did not touch on the subject of embroidery software and downloadable designs. That’s because you don’t need to buy any software or additional designs to start creating on an embroidery machine.

But once you have gotten comfortable with your machine, chances are you will want to expand your capabilities and design options by investing in more designs and/or software.

Without a good understanding of the different options, this subject can be just as confusing as choosing a machine. Let’s look at the different types of embroidery software and additional designs available in order to gain a clear view of the different types of software and other options available for extending your possible embroidery designs. Your choices include:

  • Design collections
  • Membership club
  • Digital downloads
  • Editing software
  • Lettering software
  • Digitizing software
  • Thumbnailers
  • Cataloging programs

Designs on disc

An easy investment to start building a larger library of embroidery designs is to purchase collections on CD-ROM. There are a ton of options to choose from in this category. Each will include many designs within a particular theme.

A great choice for these is Anita Goodesigns, which offers a huge collection of gorgeous designs. Sewing Machines Plus has fifteen pages of different Anita Goodesigns to choose from, including:

  • Baby designs, from vintage to cartoon-style, and everything in between
  • Holiday, seasonal, and religious motifs
  • Animal designs, both whimsical and realistic
  • Butterflies, dragonflies, and bugs
  • Fruits, vegetables, and baked goods such as cupcakes and donuts
  • Foliage and flowers galore
  • Faeries
  • Customizable designs for your sewing club
  • Mandalas
  • And plenty more
Anita Goodesigns Sun

Anita Goodesigns Sun

These collections work for many different machine formats: ART, DST, EMD, EXP, HUS, JEF, PCS, PES, SEW, SHV, VIP, and XXX.

You may also like to check out design collections from Amazing Designs, Dakota Collectibles,  Michelle’s Designs and Notcina.

VIP Club

Individual design collections on disc are an inexpensive way to start expanding your design library. But if you are like me, you will want them all! Buying all the individual collections separately would require a tremendous investment. But luckily, the folks at Anita Goodesigns realize that we will want them all, and so they made it easy for us to get them with their membership club.

The VIP club gives you ALL of the designs previously released, and then sends you the new designs that are released throughout the year. Plus, they include more member benefits, such as all the quilt and cutwork designs, as well. To read about all these benefits and extras, head over to the Anita Goodesigns Club page.

Digital downloads

You can find many designs online, through Etsy and elsewhere, available as digital downloads.

You need to know which file format your embroidery machine requires before downloading designs. Different machines require different formats and other formats are not compatible. For example, most Janome machines use .JEF files, Singer uses .XXX, Brother and Babylock generally use .PES format. Be sure to choose the correct format for your machine when downloading designs. However, if you own editing software, which we will discuss next, you can convert design formats.

You can find some free designs for digital download online. It is also possible to get premium designs for free. For example, Floriani includes a POP coupon code for a free design download on the label inside each package of their stabilizers. Once you collect ten of these codes, you can redeem them for ten design downloads. You will need stabilizer for all your embroidery designs. Floriani stabilizers are high-quality and are available in all types and weights. So the free download bonus packaged inside makes choosing these stabilizers a no-brainer.

You can also get five free Floriani downloads every month after you buy their Total Control software, which we will discuss soon.

Embroidery software for editing

Editing software will allow you to do many things, such as:

  • Resize designs and recalculate stitches
  • Merge designs
  • Convert thread brands
  • Colorize
  • Add lettering, including large letters
  • Convert design formats to the type your machine accepts
  • Overlap designs
  • Change or remove individual colors in a design
  • And more

Editing software is available in a wide range of prices. Embrilliance Essentials is an awesome option that is super affordable and will allow you to easily do all of the above, plus more. This program works on both Windows and MAC operating systems, too.

Embroidery software for digitizing

If you want to stretch your creativity further and make your own designs, then you need digitizing software. This type of software will take a piece of clipart, a vector drawing, or other image and convert it into an embroidery design.  Digitizing software will also convert fonts from your computer into letter embroidery. They can do lots of other amazing things, too; for example, you can use them to convert regular embroidery designs into cross stitch.

Many folks consider Floriani digitizing software to be the best. It is a super high quality all-in-one program which covers every possible editing and digitizing function. It also comes with the added benefits of having tons of tutorials and other help available online, and the five free design downloads a month that I mentioned previously here.

I prefer a different option, however.  I’ll be going with the Artistic Suite and Artistic Premium upgrade for my own embroidery software, and here’s why:

The Artistic Suite and Premium software costs less and includes more. This software goes beyond embroidery and includes a slew of helpful applications for quilting, appliqué, reverse appliqué, fabric cutting, heat transfer, and making elaborate rhinestone designs.  It is also useful for scrapbooking applications, and will make cut-outs from most anything, including paper, foam, and even balsa wood.

Artistic Suite does all these things as an editor, and the Premium upgrade adds digitizing capabilities. I’m amazed by everything I can do with these programs, and I can buy both of them without spending an arm and a leg! The Artistic program is available for both single needle and multi-needle machines.

Embroidery software: thumbnailers and cataloging

The Embrilliance thumbnailer is a little program that you won’t want to be without. And the price is so nice that there is no need not to pick this up right away.

This program collects all your embroidery designs into one place on your computer and lines them up as thumbnail images so that you can easily them all. Without it, you have to search and view every design individually, which can cost a lot of time and cause much frustration. But there is no need to waste any time or be frustrated at all when this solution is so simple. It is compatible with both PC and MAC.

There is another option for cataloging your designs into categories on your computer. That is Floriani’s My Design Album. This program is easy to install and will find all the various embroidery designs on your computer and compile them into one easy-to-find place. Then you can set up categories to find these designs more easily. The Design Album includes some editing capabilities as well.

Now is the best time to buy

February is National Embroidery Month, and Sewing Machines Plus is celebrating by offering big discounts on all embroidery equipment and supplies. So now is a great time to invest in additional embroidery designs and embroidery software. Take advantage of these great deals and expand your design library and capabilities today!