Sewing Through a Crisis

Sewing Through a Crisis

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

Freelance work

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

Crisis mode!

Crisis mode!

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

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

Scrappy solutions

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

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

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

Fix Your Own Pants

Fix Your Own Pants

As many of you probably know, I work as a tailor and pattern maker for film and television in New York City. I don’t always work on the same show or at the same studio. I’m also, now that I’m old(er) a bit more particular about what projects I say yes to and who I work with.

I’ve got a few fitting related pet peeves like, for instance, when a dress comes back from the fitting room with a note that simply reads: Drop in a Lining or the ever infamous and popular: Take in as pinned (if I didn’t pin it myself). These are just minor annoyances though, compared to the phenomenon of people from other departments (accounting, grip, director, props, whatever) showing up in my sewing space – without ever having met me before – and asking if I can just fix their pants or take in this skirt.

Frustration

First of all, no. I can’t just anything because (1) I’m actually working on something for the show we’re both doing and (2) I don’t want to. Especially if your pants fix involves a worn out crotch (and even if it doesn’t). I don’t randomly show up in the accounting office and ask someone to add my receipts together when they get a chance, or ask one of the props people to rewire an old lamp I bought at the last set dressing sale, or ask the director of photography to take some pictures of me for my tinder profile or something because I’m just not talented enough to take my own. (I’m kidding about the tinder profile thing). And I certainly don’t throw in some disclaimer like I always wished I learned how to take a proper photo.

You’ve got to know when its time to let a thing go.

Sometimes the person will preface their ask with so and so (insert the name of someone else in my department) told me I should ask you. This is even more perturbing if that someone else hasn’t actually sent a text or something asking me if it’s ok to send that person over to me to ask a favor.

It’s not me – it’s you

Fix Your Own Pants

It’s not that I mind doing favors. I really don’t. I do favors for people I like and know all the time. I’ll even do favors for people who I don’t know if they ask nicely and genuinely – and especially if they offer to compensate me in some way (beer!). But if you show up with some blue cotton harem pants with a thread bare bottom that you want repaired when I’m in the middle of cutting down the neckline of a velvet top that is needed on set in about twenty minutes and the first thing out of your mouth is X told me I could have you to do this I’m never going to do it. Your sad pair of pants is going to hang on my work rack until this show wraps.

Why? Because you, whoever you are, you didn’t tell me your name or what you do on this little show of ours, and I’m quite certain that the only person who can have me do anything is the Costume Designer. So, there’s that. Second, if the back of your pants is worn out in the butt area, it might just be time to buy a new pair of pants. You’ve got to know when its time to let a thing go. Seriously, why would you think that someone you don’t even know would want to be that up close and personal with that particular area of your clothing?? I don’t care if they’re clean and, yes, I’ve taken in a countless number of center backs for actors but I’m getting paid to do that. The crotch of your pants? Um, no.

A healthy dose of humility

I personally would be embarrassed to take my worn threadbare butt pants to someone I didn’t know to fix. I honestly don’t understand it. Maybe someone could shed some light on this for me?

I think what upsets me the most about this type of favor-asking is the assumption that I’m not busy doing something else that is important for the show. It’s as if people think I’m just hanging round twiddling my thumbs just waiting for someone to turn up with their personal alteration request so I can sew something.

Anyway. Rant over. I’m going to go upstairs now and see if the accounting department can get an early start on my taxes for next year. I’m sure they’re not doing anything else of importance.

What’s your big sewing related rant?

Bunk Bed Privacy Curtains

Bunk Bed Privacy Curtains (part 2)

Last fall I wrote a post about the bunk bed privacy curtains I created for my youngest daughter for her bottom bunk.

Last fall I wrote a post about the bunk bed privacy curtains I created for my youngest daughter for her bottom bunk. You can read that post here.

They turned out amazingly well; here’s a picture.

They turned out amazingly well; here’s a picture.

They turned out amazingly well; here’s a picture.

It’s only fair…

I also promised my older daughter, who sleeps on the top bunk, that I’d make her a pair too. Her curtains, I knew, would take a lot more work. First I bought ceiling curtain track and used a hacksaw to cut it to size. Then I asked my husband to drill in the holes for the screws.

While he worked on the track, I painted a thin board white to match their ceiling. We attached the track to one side of the board and then attached the board to the ceiling, drilling holes in the side of the board that didn’t have the track, right into a stud in the ceiling.

Drilling holes in the side of the board that didn’t have the track, right into a stud in the ceiling.

Drilling holes in the side of the board that didn’t have the track, right into a stud in the ceiling.

Unicorns and stars

Next up was the curtains themselves. She said she wanted ‘unicorns and stars,’ and for a theme like that you can always count on Sarah Jane Fabrics for something good. The only problem was the space the curtains took up was much larger than the width of a yard of fabric.

Undeterred, I cut the clouds and the stars from the grass and the unicorns and did the math on how to baste the fabric onto white canvas fabric to elongate the scene.

Undeterred, I cut the clouds and the stars from the grass and the unicorns & did the math on how to baste the fabric onto white canvas fabric to elongate the scene.

Undeterred, I cut the clouds and the stars from the grass and the unicorns & did the math on how to baste the fabric onto white canvas fabric to elongate the scene.

I painstakingly snipped around the curves of the clouds and the grass on the bottom and top pieces and then finger folded them over and ironed. I used starch to help the little pieces stay down. This was time consuming because I had to do it for four panels (two front, two back) and the top and bottom pieces of all four.

I love it when a plan comes together

My trouble paid off however.

My trouble paid off however.

My trouble paid off however. I diligently pinned the pieces to the main panel fabric of the top and bottom curtains and then sewed them in place with a decorative stitch.

I diligently pinned the pieces to the main panel fabric of the top & bottom curtains & then sewed them in place with a decorative stitch.

I diligently pinned the pieces to the main panel fabric of the top & bottom curtains & then sewed them in place with a decorative stitch.

Here are the two front panels. Gorgeous, no?

Here are the two front panels. Gorgeous, no?

Here are the two front panels. Gorgeous, no?

For the back panels, I raised the grass & unicorns up higher and added a strip of white on the bottom so the unicorns wouldn’t be hidden from my daughter’s view by the bunkbed railing.

For the back panels, I raised the grass & unicorns up higher and added a strip of white on the bottom so the unicorns wouldn’t be hidden from my daughter’s view by the bunkbed railing.

For the back panels, I raised the grass & unicorns up higher and added a strip of white on the bottom so the unicorns wouldn’t be hidden from my daughter’s view by the bunkbed railing.

Putting it all together

On the back panel, I then sewed drapery tape to the top of each panel. Then I sandwiched the top and bottom panels, right-sides facing, and sewed them together. Next I turned the panels and pressed everything neat and flat. I finished by top stitching the panels, and the opening where I’d turned them, closed.

On the back panel, I then sewed drapery tape to the top of each panel.

On the back panel, I then sewed drapery tape to the top of each panel.

Now it was time to puncture some holes in the drapery tape so I could add the hooks that feed into the curtain tracks. For this, I used my handheld sailmaker needles to pierce a hole in the tape but not through to the front of the fabric.

 

And voila! The curtains fed onto the track perfectly. But I wasn’t done yet.

For this, I used my handheld sailmaker needles to pierce a hole in the tape but not through to the front of the fabric.

For this, I used my handheld sailmaker needles to pierce a hole in the tape but not through to the front of the fabric.

Train your curtains

My daughter wanted to be able to block out the light of the night lights we use in the room, but also wanted to easily be able to open and shut the curtains too. I took the time to carefully fold the curtains into the bunched position, using ribbon and clothespins to maintain them in that shape while I sewed curtain tie backs. I call this ‘training’ my curtains.

 

I took the time to carefully fold the curtains into the bunched position, using ribbon & clothespins to maintain them in that shape while I sewed curtain tie backs.

I took the time to carefully fold the curtains into the bunched position, using ribbon & clothespins to maintain them in that shape while I sewed curtain tie backs.

Then I sewed two curtain tie backs and added some mini pompoms for a bit of whimsy.

Then I sewed two curtain tie backs & added some mini pompoms for a bit of whimsy.

Then I sewed two curtain tie backs & added some mini pompoms for a bit of whimsy.

I knew that my daughter would lose them if I didn’t think of a way to keep the tie backs attached to the curtains so I sewed a buttonhole onto each tie back (you can read my post about how to sew buttonholes here). Next I climbed up into her bed and hand sewed a button onto the back panel of each curtain.

Then I connected the tie backs to the curtains via the button hole. Now she can bunch the curtains to open them, wrapping the tie back around them and securing them with the Velcro I sewed on the tie backs. And when she wants to close them for privacy or to shut out the light, she just releases the Velcro and the tie backs remain attached to the curtains.

When she wants to close them for privacy or to shut out the light, she just releases the Velcro & the tie backs remain attached to the curtains.

When she wants to close them for privacy or to shut out the light, she just releases the Velcro & the tie backs remain attached to the curtains.

And I have a very happy six year old! Have you made your own bunk bed curtains? Tell us about it in comments!

 

———————————————————————————–
Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Sew a DIY Sunbrella Table Cloth with Insul-Brite

Sew a DIY Sunbrella Table Cloth with Insul-Brite

I would need a place to serve the hot lasagnas we had ordered.

I would need a place to serve the hot lasagnas we had ordered.

This weekend I hosted 17 women at my home for a women’s writing workshop with bestselling author, Amy Ferris. We had lunch each day and we ate outside on my lower deck. Lunch was catered and I knew I would need a place to serve the hot lasagnas we had ordered.

Enter my daughter’s art table: I thought it would be perfect for staging food on the deck but it’s covered in marks and squiggles and I didn’t want hot food to hurt its surface. I’ve been on a role using up my Sunbrella stash (you can read about the outdoor Sunbrella pillows I recently made here and here.) So I dug into my Sunbrella stash again.

Enter my daughter’s art table.

Enter my daughter’s art table.

This wide striped yellow Sunbrella fabric was a perfect choice. Sunbrella is water resistant and stain resistant. I also had some Insul-Brite batting in my stash too. Insul-Brite is amazing and is what home sewers use to make DIY pot holders and ironing boards.

To get started, I turned the table over and used it to make a pattern on the fabric.

This wide striped yellow Sunbrella fabric was a perfect choice.

This wide striped yellow Sunbrella fabric was a perfect choice.

I used a ½” seam around the pattern. I also only had one yard of the fabric so on the remaining portion I had to do some math to make sure I had enough left to make strips for the sides of the table cloth. I figured out that I could do three strips at 4.25” each. I cut out the tablecloth top and the strips with a hot knife.

I used a ½” seam around the pattern.

I used a ½” seam around the pattern.

Next I joined the three strips together, opening the seams and finishing them with a zig zag stitch to help keep the joins as flat as possible.

Next I joined the three strips together.

Next I joined the three strips together.

I really wanted to add pom pom trim but I didn’t have enough to go around the table cloth so I used some of this handmade trim I had from a quilt I made earlier.

I used some of this handmade trim I had from a quilt I made earlier.

I used some of this handmade trim I had from a quilt I made earlier.

How beautiful is that?

How beautiful is that?

How beautiful is that?

Now that the side fabric had the trim attached, I busted out the Insul-Brite. You want to put the shinier side of the fabric toward the heat source. I cut out a piece that was slightly larger on all sides of the top of the tablecloth.

I cut out a piece that was slightly larger on all sides of the top of the tablecloth.

I cut out a piece that was slightly larger on all sides of the top of the tablecloth.

To attach the side piece to the top I made a sandwich of first the Insul-Brite, and then the Sunbrella top. The side piece went on top of the table cloth top, right sides together. Before I started I drew a ½” seam on the side piece so I knew I was sewing correctly to the pattern I’d created for the tablecloth top.

Before I started I drew a ½" seam on the side piece so I knew I was sewing correctly to the pattern I’d created for the tablecloth top.

Before I started I drew a ½” seam on the side piece so I knew I was sewing correctly to the pattern I’d created for the tablecloth top.

Cut snips into the fabric as you go around the corners.

Cut snips into the fabric as you go around the corners.

Cut snips into the fabric as you go around the corners.

When you get close to the other end of the trim, pull it off of the machine, join the two pieces and fold them back and forth, marking where they should be sewn together.

 

When you have those marks, bring the top over to your machine and sew the join on the side piece.

When you have those marks, bring the top over to your machine & sew the join on the side piece.

When you have those marks, bring the top over to your machine & sew the join on the side piece.

Use your hot knife to trim the join. Then sew the rest of the side piece down to the tablecloth.

Use your hot knife to trim the join.

Use your hot knife to trim the join.

Next I tried it on the table to make sure I had it correctly sized. I had not yet trimmed any excess Insul-Brite. Here you can see both my darling daughter and that the tablecloth fits. What it is missing is topstitching. Topstitching is magical, not just for the finishing touch it gives but because it helps give support and structure.

Here you can see both my darling daughter & that the tablecloth fits.

Here you can see both my darling daughter & that the tablecloth fits.

I chose to topstitch on the side piece versus the top and fold the Insul-Brite down toward the sides.

I chose to topstitch on the side piece versus the top & fold the Insul-Brite down toward the sides.

I chose to topstitch on the side piece versus the top & fold the Insul-Brite down toward the sides.

That nice, clean line is exactly what will take this project to the next level.

That nice, clean line is exactly what will take this project to the next level.

That nice, clean line is exactly what will take this project to the next level.

Finally, I trimmed the Insul-Brite to match up with the seams and then used pinking shears on the corners where I had made snips to help prevent fraying.

I trimmed the Insul-Brite to match up with the seams & then used pinking shears on the corners where I had made snips to help prevent fraying.

I trimmed the Insul-Brite to match up with the seams & then used pinking shears on the corners where I had made snips to help prevent fraying.

Here’s what the finished piece looks like on the underneath.

Here’s what the finished piece looks like on the underneath.

Here’s what the finished piece looks like on the underneath.

Flipped over and on the table, you can see how much more snugly the tablecloth fits because of the topstitching.

Flipped over & on the table, you can see how much more snugly the tablecloth fits because of the topstitching.

Flipped over & on the table, you can see how much more snugly the tablecloth fits because of the topstitching.

How darling is this?

How darling is this?

How darling is this?

This is a quick pic of it inside.

This is a quick pic of it inside.

This is a quick pic of it inside.

And at last, my idea worked out great on the deck where I served lasagna for my guests and later, cheese and wine. I love it when a project works out!

I love it when a project works out!

I love it when a project works out!

———————————————————————————–
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.
Having a Friend who Sews

Having a Friend who Sews

Some things just work better in pairs.

Some things just work better in pairs.

Some things just work better in pairs—like shoes, socks, friendship bracelets, and the Everly Brothers. Often though, even our pastimes can be enhanced by the addition of another human being. Going to the movies, as an example, is more fun with a friend to offer ridiculous comments to or to discuss the movie with after the credits roll. Another example would be hiking. It could be great for you to wander through nature while getting a workout, but if you have someone to share the experience with, that company provides another level of goodness.

Sewing, too, can benefit from the presence of another person, even if people often think of it like a solo task. Things like classes based on sewing show evidence of this since you’ll be learning—should you take one—in the midst of other people who are interested in the same craft, but the reasons behind sewing non-solo are applicable beyond the notion of gathering in dozens in a classroom. Truthfully, there are common, day-to-day rationales for having a sewing friend or two in your life that you could find useful even if you don’t want to leave your house for your projects. You can pick up your phone, call them, and invite them over for sewing assistance.

And that sewing assistance can come in three specific forms that we’ll cover in this post. Ready to dive in? Then let’s go!

Taking Measurements

You might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated.

You might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated.

If you’re the type of person who sews your own clothes, you might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated. If you try to measure from shoulder to shoulder, for instance, you pretty much have to lift at least one shoulder, and that can throw off your measurement. It helps then to have a second person around who can step in and help you. Now, sure, you can recruit whoever is around to help you get that shoulder measurement, but it’s still best to have that someone be a person who’s familiar with sewing.

The reason for that detail is because people who are accustomed to taking measurements won’t need an explanation about how to take the measurement. They’ll understand, if you want help with your waist measurement, that the sewing tape should be at the smallest part of your waist. The process is familiar, and they’re accustomed enough to know how tight the tape should be held as well as where the cut off is in regard to any kind of tape-overlap. That familiarity can make for not only an easier sewing experience, but also a more accurate one. A non-sewing friend might allow too much slack and cause your clothes to be too big. To go Goldilocks, the sewing friend might measure just right.

Sharing sewing supplies

Sharing is caring.

Sharing is caring.

Sure, you shouldn’t be the person who constantly asks to borrow things—particularly if you don’t return them. But if you’re in a situation where you’re friends with someone you share an interest with and both of you trust the other enough to loan supplies, this can be a very real benefit for you and the person your friends with. If you don’t have the right shade of blue in thread, maybe your friend has it! If your friend doesn’t have a specific sewing needle for a task, perhaps you have one! It’s a great back-and-forth situation where you’re being afforded the opportunity to have a go-to for supplies you need who’s just a phone call away.

This dips into shopping as well since shopping with your friend could help each of you be aware of what the other has in their supply for these sharing moments. Of course, this wouldn’t be the only reason to go shopping for sewing supplies together, but it’s a definite plus! Either way though, in addition to sharing the supplies, you can share the experience of finding the right supplies with a good friend—and what shopping trip isn’t more fun with a friend?!

Socializing

Brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make.

Brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make.

Any time you have an interest, it can be nice to have someone to talk to about that aspect of your life. Otherwise, you might find that you have nowhere to turn to discuss interesting or pressing matters in regard to the field. It’s like being an avid reader who finishes a really great book, but then has no one to talk to about that book. You have all of these thoughts, opinions, and reactions, and where exactly are you supposed to send them?

Sewing can be so similar because you pour so much of yourself and your time into your projects. It helps to have someone there to talk to about your progress, your confusions, or your plans. The process can help you brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make, and it can give you a place to offer your complications in a way where you can ease your tension. You might even get some insight about what to do to fix those complications rather than bottling them up until they potentially run you down so much that you throw in your sewing thread. This social quality can then better your sewing experiences, and it can also increase your odds of continuing your sewing endeavors. That makes it a definite advantage of having a friend who sews!

Bottom line? Don’t think of sewing as an exclusively solo gig! Having that sewing friend can make for a brighter, easier sewing experience—from shopping for supplies to putting together your projects. You might have to sign up for a class to find that friend, but trust me! They could be worth their weight in sewing thread!

Flat Patterning: Nothing to Fear

Flat Patterning: Nothing to Fear

I spent part of last week flat patterning a period vest and coat for a ten year old actor for a new Amazon series based on the book Dangerous Book For Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden.

Let’s get technical

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical & systematic.

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical & systematic.

Flat patterning is one of my most favorite things to do. It’s very mathematical and systematic. I find it strangely soothing. Many people are intimidated by flat patterning and don’t think it’s something they would ever be able to do themselves. But, the thing about flat patterning is, if you’re good at following directions, anyone can do it.

Have you ever seen the opening sequence for the movie Tailor of Panama? In it, you see a hand drawing in chalk on a piece of fabric. The hand presumably belongs to the tailor who appears to be free handing the outline of a suit jacket front. Now, that’s something you probably won’t be able to do until you’ve drafted some thousands of suit jacket fronts but, flat patterning onto a piece of brown paper by following the instructions in a flat patterning system book is something you can do.

Take a look – it’s in a book

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so.

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so.

Every person who starts out flat patterning is following someone else’s directions on how to do so. If you take a flat patterning class you’ll work from whatever book the instructor likes. A flat patterning book provides step by step instructions for drawing specific pieces of clothing – things like draw a line equal to back neck to waist and square off from both ends (a and b).

What this means is you need to know the measurement from the neck to the waist of the person you’re drafting for. You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made). Most flat patterning books include such charts, or you can do a search online for them. The instructions for drawing the pattern will continue with the labeling of points by letters using measurements. Directions will say things like: connect e and f with a curved line or mark a point 3/8″ from g and square out.

The right pattern book for the right job

Each flat patterning will produce slightly different results as they are each based on a system developed by the author. Some systems factor in more ease than others, depending on what period the clothing is. For instance, a book on flat patterning a man’s suit jacket from the 1880s will produce a garment different than one written for patterning contemporary men’s suit jackets.

You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made).

You can also use standardized measurement charts (which is how commercial patterns are made).

So, how do you know which book to work from? It honestly doesn’t matter all that much when you’re first starting out. But as you get more comfortable with it, you can try different books to see what end results you like better.

One of my most favorite patterning books is Dress Design: Draping and Flat Patterning Method by Hillhouse and Mansfield. The book, written in 1948, gives instructions for a variety of really cool 1940s dresses and suits. It’s not always useful if I’m making something that isn’t a 1940s garment but it’s a wonderful book to study and try out different techniques.

Some other excellent patterning books that are used often in colleges are Norma R. Hollin’s Pattern Making by the Flat Pattern Method and Designing Apparel through the Flat Pattern by Rolfo, Kopp, Gross, and Zelin.

I also like Metric Pattern Cutting books by Winifred Aldrich, though these do require being able to convert your measurements into the metric system. Some pattern makers believe that the metric system allows for increased accuracy when patterning.

Pattern Making by Tomoko Nakamichi is a creative non-traditional approach to patterning and gives instructions for unique geometric Japanese garments.

Tools

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, & an L-shaped ruler.

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, & an L-shaped ruler.

A few other tools that are handy to have when you’re flat patterning are a clear see-through ruler, a curved ruler, and an L-shaped ruler.

Most pattern makers use a regular old pencil to draft the initial pattern. If they need to go back and make corrections, they’ll often use a red or blue pencil so they’ll know which line is the new line. I, personally, am a fan of the red pencil for corrections as it’s easier to see than a blue one.

If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at flat patterning but didn’t know where to start now’s the time to get yourself a book and start learning! If you don’t want to purchase a book (some of them can be quite expensive), check out your local library. You can, also, of course find used pattern books on Ebay – just don’t get too caught up in auction frenzy and pay too much.

Happy patterning!

Cat Sewing Projects

Cat Sewing Projects

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

Purrty as a Flower

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

Ball Toy

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

Cat House

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

Catnip Mouse

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

Chair Cushion

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

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

How to Sew a Zippered Outdoor Pillow Cover with Sunbrella

How to Sew a Zippered Outdoor Pillow Cover with Sunbrella

I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back.

I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back.

Last week I shared how I made outdoor pillows out of Sunbrella fabric for my front porch chairs. I made those pillows with an envelope-style close on the back. The pillows on the front porch do not get as much direct sun exposure as the chairs on the back deck. For those chairs I wanted to use the same fabric, but to make pillows with a zippered close so I could flip the pillows between the front and the back to evenly distribute sun exposure over time to the fabric.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front & back panels.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front & back panels.

For pillows with a zipper close you will cut out the same size of front and back panels. I was making two pillows for 18” x 18” pillow forms so I needed four 17” x 17” panels. With ½” seams, the finished covers would be 16” x 16”, perfect for stuffing a slightly larger pillow in to make the pillow case fluff up and fill out nicely.

Pro Tip: plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns and cut out your panels to match on all sides (if this is important to you).

Plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns & cut out your panels to match on all sides.

Plan ahead when working with stripes or patterns & cut out your panels to match on all sides.

Like a hot knife through butter

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife. It seals the edges for you. Just watch out as the edges can be sharp.

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife.

Sunbrella is perfect for cutting with a hot knife.

Sunbrella outdoor fabric has no right or wrong side. I clipped two panels together and the other two panels together using my Wonder Clips. They are available at SewingMachinesPlus.com and I love them!\

Pro Tip: if you are working with stripes or a pattern, make sure you place the panels together correctly to match the stripes or pattern.

Round off your corners. I talk about the importance of rounding your corners in this post. Not everyone does it but I think it makes for a more beautiful pillow. On dark fabrics, I use my Clover Chaco Liner pen.

Round off your corners.

Round off your corners.

Zippers!

I’m using two different zippers from my stash. They are both long enough to fit the 18”x18” pillows and that’s all that matters.

I’m using two different zippers from my stash.

I’m using two different zippers from my stash.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow. This might depend on how you want your stripes to run or your pattern to be displayed. I’m working with ½” seams all around the pillow. On the side where you will place the pattern, mark about 2” in on both sides and sew and back-tack on both ends along that 2” line.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow.

Determine what side is the bottom of your pillow.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Now your seam will look like this, with an opening in the middle.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing. Crease down both seams. Here you could stick the seam down with basting tape if you didn’t feel super confident going forward to the next step.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing.

Sunbrella is perfect for finger creasing.

With my Clover Chaco Liner pen, I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends. This will show me where I’m going to start and stop my zipper (just past that stitching on either end).

Pro Tip: make sure you place your zipper with the zipper pull facing down so it can be accessed from the right side of the pillow.

You zipper is marked up – so let’s sew it on!

I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends.

I mark on both sides of the seam where the stitching ends.

I started at the bottom of the zipper and sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made. Then I roll up both sides of the fabric and use Wonder Clips to hold the fabric in place so I don’t have fabric all over the place as I’m sewing in the zipper.

I started at the bottom of the zipper & sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made.

I started at the bottom of the zipper & sewed it down just past the yellow mark I’d made.

Next I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams. When you get to the zipper pull, leave your needle down and lift up the foot, then slide the pull past and away from where you’re sewing. Back tack thoroughly at the top and bottom of the zipper.

I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams.

I carefully sewed the zipper to either side of the folded seams.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Now the two pieces are fully joined with the zipper in the middle.

Next, unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together. Sew all around the other three sides.

Pro Tip: unzip your zippers enough to be able to fully unzip them once you’ve sewn the other seams shut.

Unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together.

Unroll your fabric and clip the panels right-sides together.

Before you turn your pillows right sides out, always, always, always check your work. Go over all the sewn seams and corners to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Then turn! Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp. I use my leather garden gloves to turn them right sides out.

Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp.

Watch out because Sunbrella cut with a hot knife can be a bit sharp.

Use something sharp but not too sharp, like a Sharpie marker with the lid on to poke and fully round the edges of your pillow. Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Now you have a Sunbrella pillow case with a zippered close!

Walk it in

Add your pillow form. Remember, your pillow is bigger than your pillow case. You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly. You are in charge! I call this action ‘walking it in.’ Just keep moving it until it’s fully in the case. Then grab each corner and really match it corner to corner.

You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly.

You need to move the pillow in gently but firmly.

And there you have it. Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front and back. Perfect for distributing sun exposure on a deck.

Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front & back.

Two puffy pillow cases with zippered closes that are the same front & back.

Ready for its close up!

Ready for its close up!

Ready for its close up!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

Do you have any tips for working with Sunbrella? Tell us about them in comments!

———————————————————————————–
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.

Strip Piecing for a Postage Stamp Quilt

Strip Piecing for a Postage Stamp Quilt

It seems the more I dig into the world of quilting, the more things I find that I never knew about it in the first place. The brand of creativity is like a well of opportunities, or a garden that you can browse until you find the right flower to plant in your yard. Each project and possibility is its own type of craft, and the quilter has to figure out which of them is intriguing enough to try a hand at.

This idea is essentially what I’m doing for this blog when I explore new quilt types. I look at new possibilities, and when one catches my interest, I dig deeper!

For this blog post, that’s exactly what I’ll do for what’s known as a postage stamp quilt.

Postage stamp quilt

A postage stamp quilt.

A postage stamp quilt.

If you’re wondering what a postage stamp quilt is, it’s actually not that complicated of a style to explain! Think of a roll of postage stamps waiting to be applied to envelopes, and you’ll have a good grasp on what they can look like. It’s one small block of fabric after another, like the patchwork quilt I invested time in, but with much smaller pieces. In fact, that seems to be the main difference in the top layer of a postage stamp quilt and one for a general patchwork quilt if they’re both basic block formats. For the stamp quilt, the blocks are smaller—potentially only a couple of inches!

When I was first introduced to this concept, I was a little intimidated. The reason for that intimidation was that I know by experience how much time can be spent assembling the outer layer of a larger-block quilt (something closer to ten inches), so the idea of putting together pieces that are this small felt overwhelming. Taking the process one piece at a time would require a long, long time for me, and the strategy would be so focused on such a smaller area that it would almost have to be tedious. As intrigued as I was, I figured it would be a frustrating task!

Strip piecing

Then I did a bit more research, and I realized you don’t have to sew these pieces one at a time. Another strategy is to strip piece them together.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together  — rectangles in place of squares.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together
— rectangles in place of squares.

All strip piecing means is that, rather than focusing on one square block of fabric, you’re using longer sections to sew together—rectangles in place of squares. For example, if you choose to use two-inch blocks of fabric for your stamp blocks, make sure the width of each strip of fabric is two inches, but don’t worry about creating the two-inch length yet. Rather, keep those strips longer!

As one source pointed out, how long the strips are can depend on you, what you’re able to handle, and how long you can keep cutting in a straight line (Quilt Videos, 2016). If you can go from the top to the bottom of three feet of fabric, you can have three-foot strips of fabric to work with. But if you find that you tend to get shaky or swerve-prone with extended cutting, you might want to keep those strips smaller. For me, I probably wouldn’t go beyond ten or twelve inches, but if you’re a more advanced quilter, you can try for more.

Time to put these pieces together

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time.

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time.

Once you have your strips, line them up side-by-side and sew them together in a chain fashion, two strips at a time. Begin with your first two strips, sewing them along their long sides so that they’re linked with both of their primary images being showcased, and then do the same with one of those linked pieces and a new strip. Once you finish, you should have a series of fabrics connected in long strips that are small enough, width-wise, to embrace the postage stamp quality in a quilt.

Once you finish, you will have a series of fabrics connected in long strips.

Once you finish, you will have a series of fabrics connected in long strips.

From strips to squares

After you’ve sewn a number of strips together—again, it can depend on how much you’re comfortable with working on at a time—it’s time to make those rectangles into squares! If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure and cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise. At that point, you should have a series of new strips, though these will be made of a series of smaller blocks of fabric—as many blocks as fabric types that you used.

If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure & cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise.

If your fabric strips were two inches in width, measure & cut across your connected fabric strips at every two-inch interval from top to bottom, length-wise.

You should repeat this process through all of the fabric you plan to use for your quilt until all of it has been transformed into these multi-fabric strips. From there, it’s time to start piecing them together into the top layer of your quilt. All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing to you until you reach the width and depth you were looking to achieve in your quilt.

All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing.

All you need to do is arrange them together in a way that looks appealing.

The process might sound a bit complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you might be surprised at how quickly your stamp quilt comes together!


References
Quilt Videos. (2016, March 24). Quilt Monkey – Episode 301 – Easy, Strip Pieced Postage Stamp Quilt Block [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3N7al2V8C8
Witherby, S. (2011, October 27). Dead Simple Christmas Quilt mock up [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/inkyswot/6285898784
Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

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

Think About What You Want to Accentuate

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

Figure Out What You Want to Cover Up

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

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

Match Your Skill Level

Picking the Right Sundress Pattern

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

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