Oui, Oui – A Sheer Evening Bolero With French Seams

Oui, Oui – A Sheer Evening Bolero With French Seams

When the weather gets warmer, weddings and graduation party announcements arrive. This means strapless dresses, tanks, low necklines and open backs that get chilly in air conditioning and cool nights. An evening bolero or cropped jacket sewn with sheer fabric is a terrific solution: Small and light, you can fold it into your purse when the dance floor calls and pull it out again for a walk in the moonlight. Plus you can brag about your sewing skills to anyone who compliments your look.

What could be more evening elegant than a bolero by Vogue?

What could be more evening elegant than a bolero by Vogue?

Lace, chiffon, silk voile, and layered tulle are good choices for an evening jacket, but working with delicate fabric often requires French seaming, a couture technique that hides ragged edges and stray threads that would otherwise show through and destroy the elegant effect. The pattern I chose for my bolero, Vogue 8885/View C, required only one French seam (and only one big piece to cut), so I dared give it a try. In my sewing stash I found a few yards of black chiffon from Mood Fabrics. I’d fallen in love with its zigzagging details on a January evening when I’d been strolling their aisles. In retrospect, black wasn’t a good color choice for a first French seam attempt. A light color would have been easier to see and sew precisely.

After cutting the pattern piece – a gigantic parallelogram – with a one-half inch seam allowance and transferring marks with white tracing paper, I was ready to attempt my début French seam. Here’s how it works:

  1. The first step in sewing a French seam is to put the wrong sides of the fabric together. You must disregard the worry you’re sewing on the incorrect side. You are sewing on the incorrect side. Sew just one-quarter inch from the cutting line, then trim close to stitching.

    French seams hide ragged edges and stray threads.

    French seams hide ragged edges and stray threads.

  2. With low heat, press the seam to one side. Then flip to the wrong side. You will see the “right” side of the seam on the wrong side. This is normal, so don’t panic.
  3. Fold the fabric along the seam and stitch again at one-half inch. This hides the seam inside another seam. The new seam is on the wrong side as it should be. Press the French seam to one side. That’s all there is to it!
A sheer black bolero compliments a camisole.

A sheer black bolero compliments a camisole.

With the French seam complete, I had to finish other aspects of the bolero such as stitching a narrow hem along the edges. For this I used a rolled hem foot that came with my Singer Quantum Stylist. Rolling the hem is fun once you get the hang of it and the results are astonishingly professional. If you don’t have a rolled hem foot, you can buy one at sewing shops or online at Sewingmachinesplus.com. I also had to stitch along the back of the bolero and gather a section by pulling along the bobbin thread. The chiffon was uncooperative – I should have used a longer stitch length to make it easier. As a last step, I joined the center back section together to create “sleeves.” Doing this caused the French seam to present itself in a diagonal direction through the back, which looks pretty cool.

As the final step, I tried it on! The loose fit looks a little better on my dress form (her name is Aretha) than it does on me, so here’s Aretha:

I’m happy with the bolero, but I’m curious about some of the other views included with Vogue 8885. It looks like a few yards of lace and more French seams are in my future. Here’s to Paris . . .

Top Fashion Trends To Sew for Your Wardrobe This Spring and Summer

Top Fashion Trends To Sew for Your Wardrobe This Spring and Summer

Top Fashion Trends for Spring and Summer 2016

Top Fashion Trends for Spring and Summer 2016

It’s an exciting time for home sewists, as many of the top fashion trends are easy to produce at home.  Even beginners can sew fashionable wardrobe pieces easily this year.

This season, a Victorian influence runs strong, as seen in ruffles and florals everywhere.  An Art Spirit also prevails, with garments adorned by embroidery, 3D artistic and rich architectural details.

Top Fashion Trends for Spring and Summer 2016 include:

  • Shoulders bared: You’ll see them in off the shoulder dresses and tunics, as well as in pieces featuring neck straps or laces to gather the neckline, and even through cutouts. An off-the-shoulder peasant style top  may be one of the easiest garments to sew.  Bare shoulders are equally easily to achieve using straps, laces, or ribbons through a casing, as in pillowcase dresses.
  • Mixed patterns, especially mixed florals: The trick for mixing various patterns is for each fabric to have one color exactly the same; do this and pull off mixtures of many and widely varied patterns. Think both patchwork—with dresses or other garments constructed with many differently patterned pieces—and also separates of different patterns.
  • Ruffles: From wide ruffles adorning dress bodices to ruffled skirts, sleeves, even ruffled capes, these are everywhere.  FYI, a serger both gathers and hems ruffles beautifully and with ease.
  • Wrap skirts: These are popular this year with a narrow A-line, in both mini and midi lengths. You will also see these with asymmetrical and layered treatments.
  • Midi skirts: The most fashionable skirt length right now, with mid-shin hems that bare ankles, but not knees. This length is flattering for every body type!
  • Paper bag waist: You’ll find these on both skirts and pants.
  • Smaller pleats: Small, accordion style pleats on dresses, blouses, skirts, even the aforementioned off the shoulder, tied at the neck dress.
  • Gingham: Especially large ginghams and also large plaids.

    Striped fabrics are all the rage.

    Striped fabrics are all the rage.

  • Stripes: Both horizontal and vertical, wide stripes, multicolor stripes.
  • Shimmer and shine, both bold and subtle: If you have ever wanted to sew a garment from metallic fabric, this is your year to do so. If you prefer something more subtle, add shimmer to black or neutrals with sequin or bead trim.
  • Denim: Dresses, skirts, blouses made of lightweight denim with design details such as ruffles, narrow pleating, subtle patchwork, layers, paper bag waist.
  • Fringe: Seen on dress hems, from shoulders and more.
  • Suede: Small pieces for warmer weather—plain, patchworked or fringed vests, tank bodices, and shorts, together or paired 70s style with patchwork or floral.
  • Orange anything: Bold Tangerine is hot.
  • Spanish Red: Spanish style is trending this year, especially in Red. Make a bold piece, perhaps a suede vest or a pleated cape.
  • Easter egg pastels: Robin’s-egg blue, dusty pink, marigold yellow hues make a soft statement this year.
  • Waist ties: Sashes of all widths are in, and we couldn’t be happier about it. A sash is suitable for a very first sewing project and is satisfying to make. Sashes are a fabulous way to feature a special fabric and improve a boring outfit.

    Silk, satin, and even batiste cotton are paired with sheer or lace panels in black, white, nude, or buff pink.

    Silk, satin, and even batiste cotton are paired with sheer or lace panels in black, white, nude or buff pink.

Other Current Looks in Fashion:

  • Wrap dresses: Nicole Kidman was featured in a sultry and silken robelike dress by Louis Vitton in the April InStyle magazine; this dress also featured mixed fabrics.
  • Floral pillowcase dresses: As easy to sew as a dress could possibly be!
  • Nightgown and lingerie style dresses: Silk, satin, and even batiste cotton are paired with sheer or lace panels in black, white, nude or buff pink.
  • Half moon bag: You’ll see bags of this shape everywhere now. Sew one for yourself by cutting two same sized semicircles, a long narrow rectangle to join the round sides, and two shorter same length rectangles, joined by a zipper, for the top and a strap.

Try your hand at just one or many of these fashionable looks this season. Sewing your own wardrobe pieces makes fashion fun.  Happy Sewing!

Boost Your Sewing Skills To Professional Quality In One Quick Step

How To Boost Your Sewing Skills To Professional Quality In One Quick Step

After learning to use a sewing machine, the best thing you can do to produce more perfect and professional projects is to use a serger. The serger is the sewing machine’s best friend and it will be yours too.

Sergers are fast! Save time in production & cut down your fitting time. Not only that! A serger will create professional finishes & immaculate seams.

Sergers are fast! Save time in production & cut down your fitting time. Not only that! A serger will create professional finishes & immaculate seams.

What is a Serger?

A serger, which is also known as an overlock machine, produces professional finishes on garments and other projects. It does this by a process of knitting, rather than sewing.

A Serger is Fast!

The serger accomplishes all its tasks quickly and easily. It is the real workhorse of the sewing room and will speed a great many tasks immensely.

While most regular sewing machines can stitch between 700-1100 stitches per minute, a serger beats this by a lot, and can make up to 1700 stitches per minute.

What Can a Serger Do?

Serge your way to becoming a sewing pro with a serger in your sewing room.

Serge your way to becoming a sewing pro with a serger in your sewing room.

In a nutshell, a serger can:

  • Neatly bind and finish seams, and cut excess fabric from seams at the same time
  • Professionally finish unlined garments
  • Perform rolled edge finished hems
  • Make beautiful, delicate narrow, pucker-free seams
  • Make decorative edgings such as ruffled edges and scalloped trims
  • Flawlessly hem ruffles with rolled edging
  • Neatly and easily attach lace and other trims
  • Automatically gather
  • Sew stretchy knit fabrics with ease, including finishing sweater knits
  • Add strength with stretch seams
  • Decoratively and functionally seam fabrics by flatlocking
  • Create reversible items
  • Finish garments without facings
  • Feed 2 layers of fabric perfectly (the serger’s secret to handling knits)

The serger, with its rolled hem option, hems skirts beautifully in just a couple minutes!

With an overlock machine, you will have no more unraveling messy edges, either when you pre-wash your fabric or inside your finished garments or projects.

You can sew knits with ease with a serger.  If this were the only thing that a serger could do it would be well worth it to get one right now! But lucky for us the serger can do lots more!

Serging is Easy!

There is a myth that the serger is complicated or hard to learn to use. This may have been true long ago. But today many well-designed, user-friendly, high-quality sergers are available. There are features that make some sergers literally a breeze to use.

The Janome 634d, with its Jet Threading, is truly a breeze to use!

You Can Do It!

I was scared myself and hesitated to buy my first serger. I was reluctant to take on the task of learning something new which I feared as difficult.

As is often the case, all this procrastination and worry was silly; I was serging projects the very first day I got my serger! It was not complicated to learn: it was easy and straightforward. There was no learning curve to get started and I only regretted not buying one sooner.

I had never sewn on knit fabric successfully before– I tried but made a mess using my sewing machine! But I followed a pattern and made my first t-shirt pretty much immediately after I got my serger.

I learned more and more as I serged on, and I was continually amazed by how many new things my overlocker enabled me to do.

Having a Serger Offers and Opens Options Galore!

  • thick thread coverage for decorative edgings
  • sparsely covered seams for less bulk in seaming
  • narrow width and
  • wide width seam choices
  • flat or
  • rolled hems

Your skills and finished products will increase in quality and you will be able to make these nicer, better professional quality projects more quickly than you’ve made things before.

If you don’t have your serger yet there is no better or more important investment to make. No sewing room is complete without a serger, and having one more than doubles your production capability.

Janome’s 7034d Magnolia model is an easy-to-use entry level serger at a very affordable price!

Buy Yours Now!

If you want to create more professional quality projects in less time, you need a serger. And if you want to, you can do it, I promise!

Get your serger now and your skills will soar.

We have the best sergers on the market here at Sewing Machines Plus, from easy-to-use, quality entry level models to the jet threaded deluxe models that literally thread themselves.

Don’t put it off anymore, buy yours today. You’ll be so glad you did!

DIY - Bias Tape with a Bias Tape Maker Tool

10 Steps to Making & Sewing Bias Tape

Gardening Apron, pattern from “Sewing for All Seasons” by Susan Beal.

Gardening Apron, pattern from “Sewing for All Seasons” by Susan Beal.

You might appreciate a well-stocked sewing shop, but don’t you get bored with the limited choices for bias and binding tape? The standard spectrum of hues leaves little room for imaginative and interesting ideas.

If you’re sure the best binding for your project isn’t on the notions shelf, consider making it yourself. Although it’s possible to create tape with only an iron and your fingers, the process will go more smoothly and be more fun with a special tool called a bias tape maker. These little aluminum color-coded gadgets are sold at most sewing shops, including Sewingmachinesplus.com. They come in widths ranging from two inches all the way down to one-quarter inch and can be purchased individually or as a set. Save the instructions that come with the tool—you’ll need its measurement guide when cutting strips.

With a small tool that costs under $10, you can conquer the bias tape bores.

My curiosity about homemade tape led me to Susan Beal’s book “Sewing for All Seasons,” where I found a pattern for a canvas gardening apron made with DIY binding tape. My tape edging was folded from a poplin just slighter lighter than the canvas used for the apron body. I used a three-quarter-inch bias tape maker by Clover, and I even have some tape left over for a matching hat.

When making your own projects with DIY tape,
follow these 10 steps:

  1. Select similar fabrics. Cut swatches from your stash and consider how each would work as either the tape or the body fabric. As a general rule, your tape should be the same weight or just slightly lighter than the body fabric. Avoid using silky fabrics because you’ll have trouble keeping the tape in place when sewing. Also avoid transparent or translucent material that will show seams and frayed edges.
  2. Determine measurements. Refer to your pattern’s specifications – what size bias or binding is required? Use the guide that comes with your tool to determine how wide your strips should be in order to achieve the proper finished size. For example, if you need three-quarter-inch binding, your strip width (for medium weight fabric) would be one and three-eights. Make sure you have the right size bias-making tool for the size you need.
  3. Measure and cut your strips. If your tape will be sewn around curved edges, such as with a circle-shaped potholder or Christmas tree skirt, your strips should be cut on the bias (at a 45-degree angle against the fabric grain). If your project is made of only straight lines like the gardening apron in the photos, you can cut strips horizontally from selvage to selvage.
  4. Prepare the strips. If your pattern requires many yards of tape, you can sew long strips together with a three-quarter-inch seam allowance. Open and gently press the seam before using the tool.

    Run the strips through the tool to create perfectly folded tape.

    Run the strips through the tool to create perfectly folded tape.

  5. Press perfectly. Use an iron at the appropriate setting for your fabric to flatten the tape as you pull it though the tool. Take your time and use your fingers to hold the tape in position before applying steam. Store the finished tape so it doesn’t lose shape when you’re working on other aspects of the project.
  6. Check your machine’s needle and thread. You’ll be sewing through many layers, so make sure your needle is up to the challenge. Likewise, consider your thread color. A thread that looks good with the body fabric might not look as good when sewn into your bias tape.
  7. Pin the tape into position. Use plenty of pins with the head accessible in the direction you plan to sew. Use small pins that won’t distort the shape of your project. The flatter, the better. In some cases, you might want to baste the tape into place.

    Create a folded angle at corners.

    Create a folded angle at corners.

  8. Be careful at corners. Fold the tape at an angle, making sure it doesn’t slip. When sewing on the machine, sew one half of the corner and stop to pivot the project to the other direction before beginning again. Do not rush—take your time and concentrate on keeping the tape in place.
  9. Cut with caution. If your pattern asks you to cut the tape at particular points, don’t cut exactly flush to the body fabric. Leave a millimeter or two in case the next part of the process pulls your tape more taut than expected.
  10. Press gently. Resist the temptation to vigorously iron the tape after it’s sewn on. Give the project some time to settle into its seams, then use light steam to gently coax out lumps and wrinkles.

With a small tool that costs under $10, you can conquer the bias tape bores. New doors open with tape made from abstract prints, solids, florals, and plaids. A fancy or patterned bias edge against a plain fabric is a fun and interesting take on cosmetic bags, T-shirts, placemats, table runners or blanket edges. Make your own tape and take your project from OK to extraordinary.


DIY Tutorial - Striped Tote

DIY Tutorial – Striped Tote

Stacey’s Stitches

DIY - The Striped Tote

DIY – The Striped Tote

Level: Beginner
Time to Complete: In A Weekend
Machine: Singer Advance
Sewn By Machine – 1/4 in. straight stitch

I’ve suddenly found myself traipsing to multiple appointments on a regular basis. After dropping an important file in the middle of a parking lot on a windy day, I decided I needed one simple tote for carrying any and everything. Thus the Striped Tote was born 🙂

Let your imagination breathe personality into every stitch!


  • 2 — 19 in. x 15 in. Inside fabric lining
  • 2 — 19 in. x 15 in. Cotton Batting
  • 14 — 15 in. x 4 in. Misc. horizontal fabric strips (amount is flexible depending on size and position of strips)
  • 4 — 3 in. x 6 in. Vertical fabric strips
  • 2 — 4in. x 30 in. Handles, preferably strong, durable fabric
  • 2 — Accent pieces, any size or shape

    Hi all! I'm Stacey Martinez :)

    Hi all! I’m Stacey Martinez 🙂 I love to design fun, imaginative custom items for my active, crazy family. Bright colors and beautiful fabrics sing “Stacey, Stitch Me!”

**Wash all fabric prior to sewing to avoid shrinkage of the finished product.
**Ironing recommended before sewing and after each step. Makes fabric easier to sew and adds a professional look to the end product.

  1. Measure and cut all fabric and batting. I used Warm White batting but thin fusible works just as well.
  2. Pin and sew (1/4 in. with regular straight stitch) inside lining and batting insides together. Side shouldn’t matter for batting but make sure lining is facing inside. Leave a gap in the top for pulling fabric right side out. Repeat for other side of bag as well. Pull fabric right side out for both sides. Leave top holes open, they will be stitched later.
    • **Tip** Cut off the corners before turning right side out. This makes the corners easier to form.
  3. Pin and sew at 1/4″ all fabric strips together for each side of the bag. Iron all seams.
  4. Pin and sew with the front side (strip side) and the inside lining together for both sides of the bag. Make sure front sides are right side together. Leave an opening on the top of both sides to pull the material through. Leave top holes open, they will be stitched later.
  5. Pull the fabric out to right side out on both sides. Iron.
  6. Fold and sew 1/8 in. around four vertical strips and two accent pieces with regular straight stitch.
  7. Pin two vertical strips and one accent piece on each side of bag. Sew with any fancy stitch of choice, with any thread color of choice. I used the Honeycomb stitch since it looks intricate and can be used for edging. I used purple as my accent stitch because I wanted the stitching to stand out, not blend in.
    Sew accent stripes and other pieces after all side layers have been sewn together and pulled right side out.

    Sew accent stripes and other pieces after all side layers have been sewn together and pulled right side out.

    • **Tip** Sewing accent stripes and other pieces after all side layers have been sewn together and pulled right side out accomplishes one important feature: This ensures that all 3 layers are stitched together more thoroughly and prevent material slippage during constant use or after a few washes. This simple step helps the tote keep shape and strength much longer.
  8. Sew the top edge of each bag side with the same accent stitch and thread color.
  9. Pin the two sides outside facing together. Iron. The material will be much thicker with so many layers coming together. Ironing helps flatten down all the layers for easier sewing. I also switched to a 100/16 denim needle to handle the extra thickness.
  10. Sew three sides together, leaving the open. Pull right side out.
  11. Fold tote handles in half, sew right sides together (using straight stitch). Sew only one end. Leave the other end open. Pull the handles right side out using the open end.
  12. Iron handles and sew around all four sides, sewing the open end closed in the process.

    Attach handles to tote, using this X design.

    Attach handles to tote, using this X design.

  13. Attach handles to tote, using this X design. The X design creates a stronger stitch often used so handles on totes and purses easily handle more weight.

Throw what you need in your new tote and take off!

Fabric Fever and Color Crazy

Fabric Fever and Color Crazy

Have you been exposed to the illness that is taking over so many people these days? If not you, maybe someone you know?

Let me tell you about the symptoms. I know because I have it, and it won’t go away. It actually gets worse!

I have Fabric Fever and I am Color Crazy! Yes, it’s true!

It seems every time I pick up my note or my phone, or sit at my computer, my hands type a search for FABRIC! And the more colorful the better. It has become truly a passion, an addiction. I wish I could show you my fabric “stash”. And each piece I bought, I was thinking about a project for it. My project schedule is outrageous!

I have to share with you how it started. After not sewing for many years, I purchased a beautiful sewing machine. It was a Husqvarna Viking. It was so easy to make a nice straight seam and my machine just purred along. I loved it.

The gentlemen that sold it to me asked, “Why don’t you consider this upgrade.” It is the same good machine, a little more features and computerized, and the work is easier.” (And quite a bit more expensive, I was thinking.) “It’s a great machine for quilting” he said.

I replied with a belly laugh, “No this will do just fine.”
The moral here is think about how it would be to show your family and friends things that are as unique as you are. It takes thought, planning, sewing, ripping, sewing and desire to feed a hobby which I know you will enjoy!
He said, “I bet you will want it in maybe three months or so.” I thought to myself, this is all the machine I will ever need, and I don’t have an interest in quilting.

Well, not EVEN three months later, I purchased the upgrade, started learning about the different methods and supplies needed for quilting and as I said…….. Now, I’m am addicted.

The moral here is think about how it would be to show your family and friends things that are as unique as you are. It takes thought, planning, sewing, ripping, sewing and desire to feed a hobby which I know you will enjoy!

Did you know sewing is an art form? With so many different ways to express your inner soul with creativity, and a productive way to show it, sewing has many different faces.

So now, I want to share my excitement about what I have designed with my Husqvarna Viking 670.

My husband, with the help of his brother, remodeled a bedroom into my sewing room. That alone was enough to do some serious sewing. I painted the room, made Boho curtains and set everything up nice and organized. Such a retreat! I tend to make things that come to me rather than follow patterns most of the time. Although, I do follow quilt block suggestions just for uniformity.

Mixed media customized Christmas gifts.

Mixed media customized Christmas gifts.

I made this for a gift last Christmas. Mixed media perhaps, each item has a meaning for whom it was made. She loved it, because she related to all the items!

Actually, one of my first baby blankets, and quilt as you go is so easy to do! I used similar blocks on the back of the quilt as well. Here is a quilt I made to display some extra stitching types on my machine. It was fun to personalize the quilt in this way. Simple, but very appreciated by the recipient. I particularly love making soft little things for sweet little boys and girls! Pink and blue are my favorite colors!

Just a couple things for now, but in the meantime, I am anxious to hear your comments on what motivates you to sew. I know you can do it. It just takes practice!

Soft baby blue rag quilt.

Soft baby blue rag quilt.

Especially, I am inviting experienced quilters to tell about their methods for fabric collecting. When my mother was living, she used to tell me, don’t start a project before you finish the first. Oh my, I am so guilty of not doing that! But from what I hear, that is pretty common for quilters. Quilting is a process, and many options to choose from is half the fun! At least, I will believe that!

Find a fabric store or look online this week. What can you make from all the options you saw! Look around and make a list of all things FABRIC! It is the thread of our lives!!

A new way of thinking, a new creative side of you! Welcome or welcome back to Sewing… The art form that never gets old!

Quitling is Not Baking

Quilting Is Not Baking

My mom was the type of cook who didn’t accurately measure ingredients, and to this day, if you ask her how much of an ingredient to put in food, she might say something like, “Until it looks like enough.”

Be exact. The “it’s good enough” mentality I might’ve had for baking doesn’t spill over so well into the world of sewing.I don’t always accurately measure things in the kitchen either. I might use a coffee cup when the recipe calls for a cup, but even then, I’ve been known to eye-ball the food and decide it needs more. I put baked goods in still pre-heating ovens, guesstimate about time, and haven’t owned a measuring cup or spoon in my adult life that I can recall.

This is how I bake, and I’ve come up with some tasty sweets.

This is, to some extent, how I’ve tried quilting, and the results are evidence of the title of this post.

Quilting is not baking…

I’m a bit of an amateur in the quilting/sewing department. I’m working on my second quilt (third if you count that one atrocity I never finished), and my overall products have been somewhat lacking.

Even with missing the mark on projects though, I still learned. As it turns out, a number of things I’ve learned for quilting are in opposition to habits that worked fine in my baking. See? It’s not baking!

My first quilt.

My first quilt.

1) Less can be more. I’m not saying smaller quilts are better than bigger quilts, but — let’s connect this food-thing again — “portions” can be too big, and ruin the effect. For baking, if I put in too many ingredients, I might just get more cookies. Who doesn’t love more cookies? For quilting, if the sizing is too big, the best I can do is something that looks amateurish. Like my first quilt:

I hesitate to definitively label this a quilt because it’s so simplistic. The design made sense here, since the animal print was from a fabric I cut up, but imagine how much better this quilt could’ve looked if the panels on that fabric had been smaller. It still might’ve been lacking — hey, it was my first finished one! — but that smaller size of each block could’ve made the overall appearance more refined.

My latest quilt.

My latest quilt.

2) Be exact. The “it’s good enough” mentality I might’ve had for baking doesn’t spill over so well into the world of sewing. Want to see an example? Here’s part of what I have so far with my latest quilt:

These shapes were not all cut in the same sizes. Instead, my system was more general—like “it’s good enough” with baking. Spotting places where this work has issues isn’t too hard. Blocks are different sizes, and I’m not entirely sure the middle rows aren’t smaller than the ends. A reason these problems could’ve happened is because I wasn’t exact with my measurements. Here’s another example of the same flaw:

Crooked corners, but a great learning experience!

Crooked corners, but a great learning experience!

See how the corners don’t line up? Oops! Not good! More accurate measuring could’ve kept this from happening.

3) Have the right tools. I might not have measuring cups and spoons. I might not even use an oven mitt. And my baking could still turn out okay. But what I’ve discovered is that tools might be a key in quilting, especially for an early quilter/sewer like me, and I should look into equipping myself with utensils for the job. Currently, I want a rotary cutter and ruler. With those, getting the right measurements could be easier, which could in turn make my final products look more refined.

4) Have a plan. Going into the kitchen and deciding I’m going to experiment with ingredients might be fine. I’ve done that. And I got some pretty tasty banana cake out of the deal. But if I go into a quilt project without a plan, things could go wrong. For my latest quilt, I changed my technique for sewing after I’d started, which caused some let-downs. My quilt is smaller than I intended, holes showed up in my fabric, and my final row of material might’ve been decided by the fact that I didn’t have enough pieces of certain materials to continue my pattern (which I slightly messed up anyway). Basically, with quilting, I should potentially map out my strategy from start to finish. Otherwise, tasty banana cake might not be the end result.

Hopefully, I’ll learn from my mistakes though, and maybe someone else can, too! Like with just about anything, practice can lead to improvement.

Learning to Sew with Mom

Learning to Sew with Mom

I remember watching my mom make clothes, doll clothes, and other items on the Singer sewing machine. Pins in her mouth, scissors in hand, she’d pin, trace, and cut a pattern and then magically sew it into something spectacular. I don’t remember how many times I asked, or how old I was when she finally agreed, but one day I finally got to learn how.

We went to the store and I got to pick out an easy pattern. Mom showed me how to read the back to figure out how much material I’d need as we browsed through bolt after bolt of fabric. I couldn’t get enough of all the colors and textures, but finally settled on something. Then it was off to pick out thread, zippers, and other necessary notions. I had no idea so much happened before even starting the project.

I had no idea so much happened before even starting the project.

Once home with the loot, Mom helped me fold the fabric so that the pattern would line up correctly. She supervised while I carefully cut out the tissue paper pieces of the pattern and helped me line them up correctly on the fabric. I was so ready to start cutting them out, but Mom said I had to pin the tissue paper to the fabric first. My small fingers weren’t overly dexterous, still aren’t, but I managed to get it done. And then, finally, it was time to cut!

Mom supervised while I carefully cut out each piece on the appropriate line for my size, being careful not to cut through the pins. I felt so grown up being allowed to use the special fabric scissors. When each piece was cut, it was time to learn to read the pattern instructions on pinning it all together and what the heck “right side to right side” meant. Turns out, that’s actually pretty important, but I still think “pretty side to pretty side” would be less confusing.

I quickly realized that the pinning part is not a lot of fun, but Mom told me it was necessary or it wouldn’t sew up right on the machine. So, I suffered through it one pin at a time. It wasn’t until years later I figured out how to do the pins in the mouth thing I always saw Mom doing, so I also got poked a lot messing around with the pin cushion.

Finally, though, the pinning for the first part was done and I got to sew…or so I thought. But Mom was worried I might be a little young to use the machine on my own, so at first, we did it like we had when she came to my nursery school class to make beanbags, and she sewed while I watched. After some pleading, she finally relented to let me use the Singer under her supervision. I managed to refrain from twirling around in excitement, but I sure wanted to!

Scraps, pieces and extras. These spare parts will make a lovely quilt someday!

Scraps, pieces and extras. These spare parts will make a lovely quilt someday!

Before I was allowed to sew my project, Mom pulled out some spare scraps from her ever-growing scrap bag and gave me a lesson on the presser foot, going forward and backward, keeping constant pressure on the pedal, and keeping my fingers out of the way. I’m pretty sure there were parts were I was sticking my tongue out with the effort of concentrating, but I finally sewed the scrap to Mom’s satisfaction and was allowed to sew part of my very first project!

'Old Reliable' mom's Singer Creative Touch takes a lickin' and keeps on stitchin'!

‘Old Reliable’ mom’s Singer Creative Touch takes a lickin’ and keeps on stitchin’!

We continued this way, pinning per the pattern instructions and sewing it together. It took far longer than it would’ve taken Mom to do the project herself, but we both have fond memories
of sharing this time while I learned a life skill. I don’t remember what the first project was, but it certainly laid the foundation for a lot that came later. I loved to make my own clothes, dresses and skirts particularly. And when I got married (the first time) I even made my gown.

I don’t use it as much as I’d like to, but I’ve still got that trusty old Singer and I periodically have the opportunity to teach the sewing craft to others. Plus, I can repair and alter clothes that would otherwise become unwearable or have to be brought to a tailor. None of this would’ve happened without that first lesson from Mom.