How to Sew Pocket Organizers

How to Sew Pocket Organizers

Sew pocket organizers to hold all your stuff!

Pockets are not only for clothes and bags.  You can sew pocket organizers for:

  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Sewing supplies
  • Knitting or crochet supplies
  • Art supplies
  • Any other kind of supplies
  • Baby gear
  • Guitar gear
  • Other kinds of gear
  • Remotes
  • Cords or cables
  • Tools
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Other kits
  • Frequently used pattern pieces
  • Bills or mail
  • Money
  • Magazines
  • Papers
  • Games
  • Toys

Those are just quick ideas off the top of my head; the possibilities are endless.

How to sew a single hanging pocket

Anyone can sew a pocket organizer, even absolute beginner sewists.  A basic hanging pocket is just two finished  squares or rectangles, one sewn down on three sides on top of the other.

To finish the squares, you cut two identical layers and sew them around all four corners and sides with right sides together, leaving an opening for turning.

I drew this because the ink shows up better than my stitching in the photo.

I drew this because the ink shows up better than my stitching in the photo.

Clip the corners and turn right sides out. You can stick something inside to push the corners out.

Then stitch the opening closed. I usually just topstitch along that entire side. Sometimes I topstitch around all four sides.

Fold the top down an inch and a half or more towards the back and sew the edge down to form a casing for hanging. Then make a smaller finished square or rectangle pocket piece using the same directions as above.

Topstitch the pocket onto the larger panel along the sides and bottom. Don’t sew the top of the pocket closed!

I made this pocket from my leftover butterfly block to hold mail, which used to pile up in my entryway.

I made this pocket from my leftover butterfly block to hold mail, which used to pile up in my entryway.

Or cheat and use jean pockets

I did some searching to find some cute projects to recommend for you.  And I found some examples of organizers that were made by reusing jeans pockets. These save a step and so you can make these with super speed. Just be sure to use a jeans needle.

I think this one is a great idea for a closet organizer.

I think this one is a great idea for a closet organizer.

I will like to make a long double sided one of these to hang in the middle of a closet that’s shared by two boys at my house. This will solve a couple of different organizational challenges in that small closet nicely.

Here is one on a hanger that is being used for sewing supplies storage.

Here is one on a hanger that is being used for sewing supplies storage.

How to sew pocket organizers with multiple pockets

To start, make a backing panel. Cut two square or rectangular pieces to the desired size of your organizer pocket panel. Press interfacing to the wrong side of one of the two square or rectangular pieces. Then layer the two pieces right sides together and sew around, leaving an opening for turning.  Turn right side out, push the corners out well from the inside, press, and then sew closed.

To allow for hanging, you can simply fold over at the top and sew a casing, or you can make hanging loops and attach these by tucking between the two pieces when you sew them together in the steps above.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets.

For the pockets, you could make several or many individual pockets in the same way as the larger backing piece and topstitch each pocket onto the backing panel separately. Or you could make long pockets the width of the backing panel. You can then topstitch to divide these long pockets into shorter sections.  You can also make your pockets slightly wider than your backing panel.  Then pleat them at the bottom and add elastic casings along the top edges, to build roomier pockets with more holding power.

My sewing room curtain organizer panels use all of the above kinds of pockets. I also stuffed a long one and sewed it closed around all sides to make a pin cushion way up high and out of the reach of grabby kids.

You can customize your pocket panels to suit your organizational challenges, no matter what they are.

Sew a money bag pocket

Maybe you’d call it a bag, but this project is simply a big pocket with a zipper at the top. You could use these as bank bags for deposits or otherwise holding cash. I made them big enough to hold multiple envelopes for monthly budgeting.

For stashing cash or other goodies.

For stashing cash or other goodies.

Or you could make these zippered pockets to hold your pencils or some other small collection.  I’m using one of mine for stashing my jewelry pliers set where no kids can reach them. Keeping my things out of the reach of children seems to be the major part of my own organizational challenges!

Favorite pocket organizers from around the web

If I haven’t given you enough inspiration to sew pocket organizers yet, check out these other ideas and tutorials that I found and collected from around the web. I will make the handy ironing board pockets right away, I can’t believe I have never thought of this simple solution before. And I think the pocketed towel will make a great gift for a sunbather I know and love.

Are the gears in your brain turning now? What problems could you solve if you sew pocket organizers to keep things in place?

Sewing in 1900: Mary Cassatt's Take

Sewing in 1900: Mary Cassatt’s Take

One of my regrets in life is that I never majored in art history. Ever since my high school humanities teacher introduced me to the world of architecture, painting, and sculpture, I’ve had a hard time shaking the interest in the subject. Sure, I majored in history, but the focus was more on rulers and wars than painters and art masterpieces. Shame, right?

Art can be a window into society that allows a distinctive look into the world it was created for, and it can be so arbitrary and open to interpretation that two people can garner two completely different meanings from the same piece. Regardless though, it’s still that window, and it’s still a peek into a time past if you look at the most historic works.

This looks familiar!

This post's painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing.

This post’s painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing.

I hadn’t realized until recently that sewing was such a theme in art from the last centuries. Apparently, painting an image of sewing — which, in itself, can be art — has been a goal in more than one artistic work. This concept intrigues me so much, guys! I’m interested in looking into these works and examining them with an artistic eye and historic mindset. What are the differences in these paintings, and what can be inferred from each concerning sewing in that historic context?

So, you might have guessed, I plan to explore some of these works on this blog! Those explorations won’t be every post since I think more of a mixture of post angles creates for a more engaging set-up, but here and there, look for a sewing-related work of art to surface — complete with analysis and description.

This post’s painting of choice: Mary Cassatt’s Young Mother Sewing

This oil on canvas painting is from 1900, and it’s a part of Cassatt’s exploration of the dynamic between women and children that reportedly began a decade before the completion of this painting. Given that the people in this painting are, in fact, a woman and a child, the connection is clear, but what does the delivery say about the circumstance and, specifically, sewing at the time?

Take a pencil & draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work. That targeted area can draw attention directly to the focal point.

Take a pencil & draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work. That targeted area can draw attention directly to the focal point.

Well, first we can identify what the focal point is for this work, and that’s obviously the woman and child — both, as if they’re actually one object and inseparable. There is literally no part of this child that exists outside of the woman’s space if you include the dress she’s wearing. Attention is drawn directly to the pair because of the composition of the work, which incorporates the pyramid look that has so often surfaced in the art world. With this approach, basically, you could take a pencil and draw a triangle around the main focal point of the work, and that targeted area can draw attention directly to the point the artist wants you to notice.

Because this painting was from a period that explores the woman-and-child relationship, there’s really no surprise in the detail that the woman and child are the focal area. In fact, the overall imagery of the woman and child dominate the painting so strongly that the detail that the woman’s sewing is almost background material within the focal pyramid.

More than meets the eye

Unbalanced section.

Unbalanced section.

So what does this background trait say about the importance of sewing in the work?

I think it shows sewing as something that was simply a part of the taking-care-of-children theme rather than something that was being done out of love for the pastime, and if you consider the balance of the painting, that theory gains merit. Everything outside of the pyramid is more or less balanced, from the trees outside to the windows, except for the fact that there’s a series of items that show up on the same side of the painting as the child. The table, vase, and flowers are variations of that balance, and they tip the importance scale more in favor of the child — which happens to be away from the sewing.

She’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her & stares outward.

She’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her & stares outward.

Hidden messages

Still, even if sewing is only being shown as a means to care for the child, it’s worth noting that the woman doesn’t look unhappy while sewing. Her brow isn’t crinkled in any way that shows frustration, and her lips aren’t overly drooping in a frown. Rather, she’s tunnel-focused on that sewing project as the child leans over her and stares outward. Perhaps then the sewing message to be inferred from this work is that sewing was just another piece of the puzzle, and the woman in the painting is capable of seeing to that task perfectly — and without visible frustration — while still keeping the child as the primary priority.

This would fall in line with the notion that Cassatt was exploring that woman-and-child relationship, and it’s a tactical outlook on sewing that doesn’t include any sort of negative expression from the woman. All in all, it was a part of life for the historic time frame, and the woman is committed to seeing to the task — for the sake of her child, but not with any real disgust for the job.

But, as I said, art is open to interpretation! What do you guys think can be inferred about sewing in 1900 from this painting?

Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

Stunt Doubles and Magic Gloves

The film and television business has many safety precautions in place. Productions almost always have a Stunt Coordinator to supervise and choreograph any type of fight or daredevil action scene. Actors and actresses often have stunt doubles who will perform most of the really ‘dangerous’ bits. Big name actors usually have a regular stunt double who always works with them no matter what show or film they are on.

What this means costume-wise, is that we need to dress the double in exactly the same clothes as the actor. Many times, both the stunt and actor themselves will require multiple outfits of the same thing.

Love / hate

I have a love-hate relationship with multiples. On the one hand, it can be super boring to do the same alteration on the same pair of pants, or jacket, or whatever six to ten times. On the other hand, it can be a very zen experience: doing the same thing over and over kind of puts you into a rhythm where everything flows naturally and without much thought. I prefer to do all the multiples at one time if possible.

When I lived in Austin, TX, I worked as a set costumer on many of the films directed by Robert Rodriguez: Spy Kids, Sin City, Grindhouse. His movies are very stunt heavy which makes his sets very active and interesting. The stunt coordinator for all the films I worked on for Mr. Rodriguez was a lovely and talented man named Jeff Dashnaw. Many of the actors and stunt actors were harnessed for various scenes. A stunt harness is similar, I suppose, to a climbing harness or rig. It’s made of heavy canvas and twill and sometimes has metal jump rings to facilitate the attachment of cables.

There are different types of harnesses, depending on what sort of action is required. Some are full vests and some are just a belt and leg straps. It’s up to the stunt coordinator to determine what harness should be used and where the cables should be attached in order to create the desired effect. There’s quite a bit of physics knowledge in all of that!

What to do when things go wrong

Things can go wrong sometimes and people can be injured. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all that often. On a show I worked on recently one of the actors tore a ligament in his hand which, in turn, resulted in him having to wear a big, rather awkward cast. The task of trying to disguise this cast fell to the costume department.

The costume designer and I had to figure out how to make a glove of some sort to cover the cast.

Tracing of hands.

Tracing of hands.

First, we traced the actor’s hand in his cast.

Make a pattern.

Make a pattern.

Next, I made a pattern of the tracing. Our idea was to use an existing glove, take it apart, stitch the fingers together (since his fingers are bound together), and add a new neoprene layer on the palm side.

Taking apart an existing glove.

Taking apart an existing glove.

This was the first result: Not too bad.

First attempt at a glove to hide the cast.

First attempt at a glove to hide the cast.

Then we decided that it might look better to have the thumb separate so I did some modifications:

Attempt 2 with separate thumb.

Attempt 2 with separate thumb.

Now, it’s a bit too small across the knuckles so I have to take the neoprene back off and recut a new, wider one, to add some width.

Being flexible is key

Projects like this are fairly normal in my sewing life. And if there’s one thing that seems to be true no matter what show I’m working on it’s that the costume department is almost always the ones tasked with finding solutions to a problem that no one else wants to deal with.

TV magic. It’s a real thing. This actually reminds me of an incident during Boardwalk Empire when I came to work one morning to find a shredded beaded dress on my table with a note that said, “Help! Please work your magic to fix this dress. It works again this evening.”

We did indeed manage to put the dress back together to get through one more night of filming but we sent it back to set with a note that read, “We are all out of magic for the week but did our best to bring this dress back from the dead. Love, The Costume Shop.”

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

In the Wee Hours of the Morning

I’ve always been a morning person, or rather, I’ve never really found it that difficult to get up at before the crack of dawn. I’m usually not ready to actually talk to anyone until after the sun is up but, I actually really like the quiet pre-dawn hours, especially in a big city, like New York.

The bars here close at 4:00 am so the hours between four and six are the transition between last night and this morning; people who work in bars are on their way home (as well as those who were just out drinking) while another whole group of people are on their way to work. The streets are relatively quiet without much traffic – a true rarity in New York City. Cycling through the early morning streets always feels like a special, secret thing. The cabs that are out and about rarely honk this early and we share the roads without incident.

Top of the morning

A lot happens in the city between the hours of 4:00 am and 7:00 am. I’m not the only one out. Central Park is already humming starting at 5:00 am with runners, walkers, cyclists, and dogs. The street vendors are up and opening up their carts. Most bodegas are open already (many of them stay open all night). On the weekends, there are bike races and running races (the NYC half marathon was yesterday) and, all about the city, especially if its Monday morning, film and television crews are going to work, or are already at work.

If you want to work in film and television, you have to be able to get up early. And I mean early, like before 5:00 am, and, if you’re in the wardrobe of hair and makeup departments, often before 4:00 am. It’s not unusual for the costume and wardrobe departments to have to be at work by 5:30am, or 5:00 am. I’ve even had to be at work by 4:30 am before.

Actor call times for this morning, including fitting times.

Actor call times for this morning, including fitting times.

The main reason for this is the sun, and the fact that most shooting days are, at a very minimum, twelve hours long. Mondays usually mean a super early start as the goal is often to start filming outside as soon as the sun is up (you don’t want to miss any of that precious daylight, especially in the winter months when the days are shorter).

It’s all about proper preparation

In order to have the actors ready to go on set when the sun is up, they need to get to work an hour or two beforehand to go through hair and makeup and to get dressed. If it’s day that requires a large amount of background actors to be dressed and ready to go in the first shot, they (and the wardrobe people who are there to help them get ready) often must report to work a couple hours before sunrise.

As the tailor, I often have to be at work for an early morning fitting that happens before an actor goes to hair and makeup. Then I have the hour or so when they’re “in the chair” as we call it in the film business, to complete an alteration. This is also when my fast sewing skills come in handy.

The early bird

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am.

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am.

This Monday on Blindspot, we’re in the studio on the stage so all the scenes are interior but, general crew call is still 7:00 am. We were also on the stage most of last week, including Friday, so the crew will be pretty much ready at 7:00 to start shooting. If we’ve been out somewhere on location shooting, sometimes an extra half hour or so is needed to get the lights ready, the cameras out, the props set, etc.

Times the wardrobe, costume, and hair & makeup departments had to be at work this morning.

Times the wardrobe, costume, and hair & makeup departments had to be at work this morning.

The wardrobe crew, though, was here at 5:42 and 6:00 and the first actors arrived by 6:00.

Sometimes people ask how I’m able to get up so early. I honestly don’t know the answer. I will say that I think you do get used to it. I actually hate when I don’t have to be at work until 9:00 or 10:00, mainly because it can take twice as long to get there when you’re in the midst of rush hour traffic. I’d choose the 5:00 and 6:00 am starts every time.

I do my best, focused work early in the morning; things don’t seem as frenetic before the sun is up. There are fewer distractions, the phone doesn’t ring, the only texts are most likely directly related to whatever I’m working on, people aren’t quite awake yet so there’s less chit chat. Things just seem to flow along at a steady, quiet, unencumbered pace.  Also, when you get to work at 6:00 in the morning, you get to have second breakfast at 10:00 – and who wouldn’t be up for that?

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.
The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

The Lost Straight Pin Dilemma

Let’s be honest. Sewing isn’t the most dangerous hobby. I’m not driving a Nascar race, flipping in the air off of a dirt bike, or taming poisonous reptiles. Overall, it’s a safe assumption that I’m not chancing my life by trying to finish a sewing project! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for smaller injuries in the world of sewing, and one of those possibilities has surfaced a number of times on this blog: Accidentally sticking yourself with a straight pin.

Ouch!

Don't misplace your straight pin container!

Don’t misplace your straight pin container!

Sure, it’s a minor injury. There’s no need to rush to the hospital, and you probably won’t break out a Tylenol bottle to help with the pain. Regardless, it is a discomfort, and the possibility of enduring that discomfort extends beyond your sewing session if you do what I’ve found to be one of the easiest missteps in sewing, which is losing your straight pins. I don’t mean misplacing your straight pin container either! I mean that once you put away your sewing materials and supplies, you find that there is at least one straight pin lingering in or around your sewing area.  Each of those straight pins could be a future discomfort waiting to happen, and every one could also bring you one step closer to buying more straight pins.

But it’s sooo easy to lose these things! How can a person keep from having it happen?

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice!

Sometimes it’s unavoidable…

For me, personally, I’m leaning toward the idea that I can’t completely prevent it. In fact, my leaving straight pins behind is kind of a running joke in my house. Other than using a pin cushion, the only advice I have to offer on that detail is to make the right choice when buying your pins. Like with thread and material, the type of straight pin you get can matter, so be sure you’re making a good choice! In my experience, ones with a bit more length to them seem to hold their places better than the shorter ones, and I think logic backs that up. The longer the pin, the more space you have to lock it in place in your fabric. If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

If it’s locked in place, there’s less risk of it working its way back out of the material, which lessens the risk of a loose straight pin.

Even with those longer pins and pin cushion though, pins still might end up scattered around your work area. So when nothing you’ve done keeps your straight pins from falling to the floor, seat, etc., how do you find them to put them away and prevent someone from accidentally coming across one in a not-so-pleasant fashion? Here are some ideas!

Your own senses

This one is obvious, so let’s begin with it. Sometimes, just looking around your sewing area can let you find loose straight pins, and gently patting your hand (not pressing too hard since pins are, indeed, sharp) could help you detect them as well. I honestly don’t know how many pins I’ve found with these tactics, and I didn’t have to buy anything for them!

Found ya!

Found ya!

Shine a flashlight

Objects that are the color and/or texture of a straight pin reflect light, so if you shine a flashlight, you might get a glimmer in response that will lead you to a loose straight pin. Take your time as you do this so that you don’t look right over the pin! A few extra seconds for a better-done job could save you hassle and, as I mentioned, discomfort, in the future!

Use a vacuum cleaner

Okay, clearly, you might not want to vacuum up a straight pin for the sake of your vacuum cleaner! But as the link says, if you use an extension hose from your vacuum, you just need to put some kind of barrier over it to keep the pin out. A piece of cloth would work, and using the vacuum in this fashion would pull the straight pin out of whatever hiding place it’s in to a very obvious spot without damaging your vacuum cleaner. Simple, right?

Use a magnet

This method is plain, but effective! Just move a magnet around your work area, and any metal pin that’s close enough should be drawn to it. The strategy comes with very little hassle, and very little room for error unless your magnet is too far away from the pin. But so long as you’re thorough with covering the area, this is — in my opinion — the best tactic of the listed ones. It’s not as iffy as missing a flashlight glimmer, as unsure as eyeballing the area, or as cumbersome as breaking out (and readying) your vacuum cleaner. It’s so low-tech, most people can use it easily, and it’s cheap! What more could you ask for?

With these methods at your disposal, hopefully most of your loose straight pins can be found and preserved for future use instead of laying around for future injury!

Do you have a preference among them or know any other strategies for locating loose straight pins? If so, share your thoughts!

Everyone needs an Arm Sometimes

Everyone needs an Arm Sometimes

I rarely use a free arm on a sewing machine, mainly because I sew most often on my industrial Juki straight stitch machine and it doesn’t have one. I sew sleeve and pant cuffs by either leaving the garment right side out and sewing with the wrong side to the top or vice versa (garment wrong side out and sewing with the right side to the top).

I sew most often on my industrial Juki straight stitch machine and it doesn’t have a free arm.

I sew most often on my industrial Juki straight stitch machine and it doesn’t have a free arm.

Most things are easily sewn this way. You basically put the needle and presser foot inside the pant leg or sleeve.

Something up my sleeve

This past week though, I needed to attach a nine and half inch sleeve extension to the top of a cuff – making a sweater look as if there was another layer underneath when in actuality there was only an extra sleeve poking out from the bottom.

I marked and pinned, tried going in from one way, then another but couldn’t get the needle to the right sewing position. The sleeve extension was too long and the existing cuff on the sweater I was attaching it too, far too bulky and heavy.

My little light weight Brother SC9500 was no help either as it doesn’t have a really skinny free arm.

My little light weight Brother SC9500 was no help either as it doesn’t have a really skinny free arm.

My little light weight Brother SC9500 was no help either as it doesn’t have a really skinny free arm.

A sewing machine free arm is the narrow platform you’re usually left with if you remove the flat bed attachment on a domestic machine.

It’s a Bernina Record 830 which is, along with the Bernina 930, one of the best domestic ‘portable’ machines ever made.

It’s a Bernina Record 830 which is, along with the Bernina 930, one of the best domestic ‘portable’ machines ever made.

After some struggling (and cursing), I remembered that my good old trusty heavy metal Bernina was under the cutting table. It’s a Bernina Record 830 which is, along with the Bernina 930, one of the best domestic ‘portable’ machines ever made.

Standing the test of time

The 830 was made in the 1970s and the 930 in the 1980s. Both machines are mechanical (no electronic ‘smart’ stitch settings) and will sew through pretty much anything. They’re also faster than most modern domestic machines. And the 830 has a nice skinny free arm.

The one thing it doesn’t have is extra ‘give’ in the presser foot – which allows you to get really big bulky things under it. In order to get my sweater cuff and extra sleeve under the foot I needed to exert a good amount of what my father always referred to as ‘elbow grease’.

But once under there, the old 830 happily sewed over all the lumpy bulk. Crisis averted.

Bernina reliability

Bernina is still making some great machines, many of them are electronic now.

But, if you ever see an 830 or a 930 at a garage sale, snatch it up. They make excellent all around machines and seem to be virtually indestructible. Mine has taken a dive off the tailgate of a wardrobe truck and it still works great (though I don’t necessarily recommend testing that theory).

My experience with the troublesome sweater reminded me that there is always a solution to a seemingly impossible task. Sometimes that solution only becomes clear after you’ve pretty much given up. I did indeed say out loud (to no one in particular as I’m pretty much always sewing alone in my little sunny corner) “I can’t get in there. I just can’t get in there.” Then, low and behold, I spotted the red plastic case that houses my Bernina and I knew everything was going to be ok.

This also reminds me of something I was told when I first started cycling up steep, long mountains. “Every climb has a gear. You just need to find it.” I wasn’t thoroughly convinced at first but, if history is to be believed, that is absolutely the case. I have yet to find a mountain I couldn’t climb.

There’s always a way. You just have to find it.

Free Singer Sewing Projects

Free Singer Sewing Projects

I love free sewing patterns. I bet you do too! Here’s a few of my favorites from SMP.

I love free sewing patterns. I bet you do too! Here’s a few of my favorites from SMP.

The cold weather doesn’t seem to want to let go this year – at least where I live. As much as I’m yearning for warm days so I can get outside and enjoy nature, it’s a perfect time to sew. I love free sewing patterns. I bet you do too! Here’s a few of my favorites from SMP.

Sewing Machine Cover

I love that it’s soft and easy to remove, but keeps the dust off and the pet hair out.

I love that it’s soft and easy to remove, but keeps the dust off and the pet hair out.

My mom made one of these for the Singer she taught me on many years ago. I love that it’s soft and easy to remove, but keeps the dust off and the pet hair out. With four cats, everything gets covered in fur fairly quickly if it’s not covered. I also love that it can be made with any fabric or print so you match it to the décor and colors in your sewing room.

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/media/projects/singer/Sewing-Machine-Cover.pdf

Embellished Kitchen Towels

Bring a little color and spring into your home, no matter what the weather is doing outside with some fancy kitchen towels. They’re easy to make, no matter what your skill level. Even better, they’re a great way to use up some of your fabric stash and require nothing more than a white kitchen cloth (or any other color if you prefer).

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/media/projects/singer/Embellished-Kitchen-Towels.pdf

Crayon Pouch

This awesome sewing pouch makes it easy to carry all the colors I need & look fashionable to boot.

This awesome sewing pouch makes it easy to carry all the colors I need & look fashionable to boot.

Have you been bitten by the adult coloring bug yet? I have! And I love using crayons. I bought a container of around 120 crayons that I can carry, but if I’m working on a specific picture, I may not need all 120 colors. This awesome sewing pouch makes it easy to carry all the colors I need and look fashionable to boot. The ladies in the sewing group at the public library will swoon if I bring this in…maybe an extra source of income? *wink

http://www.sewingmachinesplus.com/media/projects/singer/Crayon-Pouch.pdf

These three free singer sewing projects are just a few of the ones you can find at sewingmachinesplus.com See the whole list and get inspired here.

DIY Chicken Aprons and Hen Saddles

DIY Chicken Aprons and Hen Saddles

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

When my girlfriend, Ella, asked me if I could make her a ‘chicken apron’ I thought perhaps she meant something like a heavy duty cover for when she is out in her yard working with her chickens. I of course said yes, but she quickly corrected me and explained that the aprons in questions were actually for her chickens.

Who knew chickens wore clothes?

It turns out that other chickens can be mean and may pick on or peck a member of their brood (even to death). Additionally, roosters can sometimes be too aggressive with hens. Chicken aprons, also called chicken capes, or hen saddles, can protect their backs from the claws of the roosters.

While I often create my own patterns when I sew, creating something like this for Ella’s chickens was beyond me. She found me a free pattern, which you can also follow here, and I got to work.

Heads up that this project is perfect for any pre-cut layer cakes (10″ x 10″ squares) you may have on hand.

Photo credit, left to right: Ella Sherman, MyPetChicken.com & WeAllSew.com.

Photo credit, left to right: Ella Sherman, MyPetChicken.com & WeAllSew.com.

My oldest daughter helped me pick out some fabrics and we sent a picture for Ella to choose from. I planned to make her three reversible aprons.

Here’s another interesting thing we learned

Never dress your chickens in pink, or red; it brings out their cannibalistic instincts and could result in the chicken getting pecked to death. Red & pink = no no.

Beware of chicken scratch. Red & pink = no no.

Beware of chicken scratch. Red & pink = no no.

Sketch it out

With my six fabrics decided, I drew out a pattern on each one. All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

All of these are layer cakes squares I had in my fabric stash.

Ella lives in Southern California so she didn’t need any type of warmth or real thickness for batting. Still, I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

I wanted them to be crisp, so I added a layer of Pellon 931TD, Fusible Midweight Interfacing to one side of each apron.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration. If you plan to add rick rack or bows, do it before you sew the sides together.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration.

Once three of the sides had interfacing, I turned to decoration.

Cut out a 10.5″ piece of elastic for each bib. You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

You will pin each end where the arm (wing?) holes would be.

Place the layers, right sides together and pin (here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers).

Here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers.

Here you can see the elastic sandwiched between the layers.

Ok, here we go…

This is how it should look before you begin sewing. The pattern I used called for a ½” seam allowance, probably because it also called for thick batting. Choose your own seam allowance and sew all the way around, leaving only the neck hole completely open.

This is how it should look before you begin sewing.

This is how it should look before you begin sewing.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around. I trimmed away the excess fabric and made small snips around the inner and outer curves so they would lie flat once I turned the fabric right sides out.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around.

Here’s how mine looked after sewing all the way around.

Two important things to do once you’ve turned the fabric

  1. Take your time and run your fingers along the inside seam, popping the fabric out so it shows a great shape.
  2. Iron! I both ironed and starched mine once I had turned them.

Next, turn the neck hole down first a ½ inch then another ½ inch. Tuck the piece of elastic into where you’ve turned it, creating a casing. You will sew across the bottom of the folded fabric, taking care not to catch the elastic. When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back and forth in the casing.

When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back & forth in the casing.

When you are done, you should be able to move the piece of elastic freely back & forth in the casing.

Top stitch!

Have fun with your top stitching. I used a different decorative stitch on each apron.

And there you have it

This is easily a 20 minute project if you have all your supplies at hand. It’s wonderful for layer cakes and if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

It’s wonderful for layer cakes & if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

It’s wonderful for layer cakes & if you have friends who own chickens, these would make great handmade gifts.

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Pop your presents in some pretty wrapping and send them off to be wild with some hens!

Have you ever made chicken aprons or a unique piece of clothing for an animal? Tell us about it in the 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.
Scrap-Fabric Keychain!

Scrap-Fabric Keychain!

If there’s one thing I’m interested in regarding sewing, it’s finding new ways to use my leftover fabric. In fact, if you’ve been keeping up with my posts (I won’t hate you forever because you haven’t! Honest!), it’s a concept that’s been explored already. But I still have fabric at my disposal, so the idea of how to use those pieces continues as a subject worth looking into.

So, for today’s post, I’m going to give you yet another way to use your leftover fabric — even if that leftover fabric is fairly small! Need proof? The project I’ll use for an example was made out of ONE fabric block that was less than ten inches in either direction. Sound good? Then let’s dive into this project, which for the record, is a keychain!

What you’ll need:

  • One fabric block. The size varies depending on what shape you want to make your keychain — and what size you want your keychain to be — but you don’t need anything over 10″ x 10″. Also, remember that flimsy fabric might not keep your keychain shape too well, so try something that’s sturdy — maybe even felt.
  • Key ring. It isn’t really a keychain if you can’t hang a key on it!
  • Sewing essentials like needle, thread, and straight pins, as usual!

What you’ll do:

Step One:  Choose your fabric, keeping in mind the guidelines about size and texture. You should also note that your shapes for your keychain will only be so big, so you should consider that size. If your final goal is a one-inch shape, for instance, you should pick a fabric that’ll look good when cut down to that size. I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me. It might be something you want to consider as well!

I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me.

I changed my fabric choice on this detail because with my initial decision, I would’ve potentially had part of a flower, a whole lot of plain color, or scattered bits that didn’t really look that fantastic to me.

Also, decide what shape you want your keychain to be. For me, I went with a heart because it was simple and traditional, but there are plenty of other options. Once you know your shape, you can create a stencil, or use an existing stencil, to make sure your fabric is going to be cut in the right way.

Cut it out

Step Two: Cut out your shapes! This was a perk to choosing a heart because you can make one by only cutting one side of the heart, as many of us might have learned in childhood. I don’t need to cut both sides if I fold the fabric in half, and I ended up only having to make that folded cut once for both sides of my keychain by folding the fabric into fourths. That way, with one swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got two bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

With 1 swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got 2 bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

With 1 swooping I-want-a-heart-shape cut, I got 2 bits of fabric that admittedly needed a bit of tailoring, but were good starting places for my heart.

Whether you find a simple method to make both pieces at once or use a stencil, cut two shapes out of the block of fabric — one for the keychain’s front side and one for the back. Make sure they’re even enough so that too much excess material doesn’t show on either side and that you’ve accomplished cutting the shape you wanted — or at least one you can live with! Also, remember to cut a line of fabric that is a couple of inches long and wide enough to suit your purpose (maybe ¼”). This will be your loop to put the keyring through. NOTE: These numbers can vary depending on what size you want your keychain to be!

Step Three: Once your shapes are cut and trimmed, it’s time to start planning your sewing. Even though this is a small project, it could still pay to have straight pins keeping your work in place, so you might want to break out a couple! Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward, and don’t forget to fold that additional line of fabric and place the tips of both ends between the two shapes.

Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward.

Be sure before you pin or sew that your main fabric pieces are together with their patterned sides facing outward.

Put a ring on it

You might think about going ahead and adding your keyring here as well so that you don’t have to put your fabric through the stress of being twisted through the keyring. To do that, you’d just need to loop the line of fabric through the ring before you pin it between the shaped fabric pieces for sewing.

Step Four: Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long! And be sure to cut off the excess thread when you finish!

Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long!

Sew! Since this is a keychain, the process won’t take long!

Step Five: Hang a key on it and enjoy!