I’ve taken a small break from fashion sewing to work on a few just-for-fun embroidery projects. Over the holidays I had rediscovered how much I love old hand-embroidered things for the home when my Mom showed me some items she had embroidered when she was a girl. They were so charming and sweet.
I thought about the trend for adult coloring books. Coloring as an adult is supposed to be a relaxing activity that relieves stress and restores calm. I think working on simple embroidery projects can do the same. You choose the colors you like and the designs you like. It’s easy and something you can do just for pure enjoyment.
One of the easiest ways to get started is with dishtowels. I love using flour sack towels to dry my dishes. As a child, my mother embroidered many of these and I was eager to make some of my own.
My first effort was the kitten in the knitting basket. I found the design on a google images search and just printed it onto regular paper. I already had a stack of plain unembellished towels in my drawer, so I grabbed one of those. Using my favorite sewing notion, blue painter’s tape, I taped the printout to my table. Then I positioned my towel above it and taped it down as well. Since my towel had such an open weave, I was able to trace the design onto the towel with a soft lead pencil. I had a 6-inch embroidery hoop, embroidery needles and needle threader already, so all I needed was some thread. I bought a variety pack of good quality embroidery floss and was good to go.
Once I got started, I had a lot of fun playing with different colors and types of stitches. Some of them I knew already. Others I found in my Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Needlework or in one of the many online resources out there. The kitten uses back stitch, french knots, lazy daisy (my favorite), stem stitch and satin stitch. I consider the final embroidery a success although I would have used a more tightly woven dish towel if I had thought about how much the reverse side would show through.
Now that I knew a little bit, I was ready for more. I researched dishtowels and landed on Mary’s Kitchen as my choice. They are large, hemmed, on-grain (!), tightly woven bright white cotton towels. For patterns, I decided to go the tried and true iron-on transfer route. People have been buying iron-on designs since the late 1800’s and they are still a great option. The Aunt Martha’s brand seems fairly easy to find in retail stores and online. I bought a selection of patterns that I thought I might like – they were less than $2.00 each, so why not? I also got a little more organized with my materials by adding a floss box, plastic floss bobbins, winder and ring. My total investment so far was about $35. This is one inexpensive hobby!
Supplies in hand and fully committed, I stamped 7 flour sack towels with a days of the week birdhouse series. It was a fun project to work on whenever I wanted something small and portable. It went surprisingly fast and I love the results! I will definitely have one or two hand embroidery projects ready to go from now on.
If you would like to give embroidery a try, here are a few resources to get started:
I’m trying to find the silver lining in a 10 day weather forecast that doesn’t show any temperatures above freezing. I know there must be one. Oh, yes! I can dig in to my plans for 2018 (and daydream about spring a little while I’m at it.).
This year, I’m going to be working on one large skill-building project each month. Don’t worry – I’ll still be blogging about easy and fun projects. But you can look forward to following along as I cover some new territory as well. Here’s my month-to-month plan:
Here’s a quickie that can really reinvigorate old pants and shorts. Making a raw edge by leaving everything unfinished and letting the fraying process take its course is a fine option. But sometimes a neater finish is a better fit. Here’s what I did to some tapered jeans that I wanted to make into shorts.
First, decide on the length you want and how deep you want to make the hem. I decided to go with a one inch hem and a 6 inch inseam. Carefully measure and mark the legs before cutting. I like to use a temporary marker that fades in a day or so. Cut the legs.
Since these bottoms were tapered, they needed a little extra work. I examined the legs and saw that they were only angled on the outside seam. So I picked the stitches out until the outside leg seams opened just slightly below one inch. Next, mark the right side of the legs at one and two inches from the bottom all the way around.
Fold the hem into place and press.
Set up the coverstitch machine with topstitching thread in the two needles and wooly nylon in the looper. I found that plain orange polyester thread works well for jeans topstitching. Using nylon helps keep the seam flat. Otherwise, you may risk creating a ridge or “tunnel” of material under between the two topstitch lines. The nylon color isn’t important since it will not show.
Using the 2 inch line as a guide, stitch the hem.
I had contemplated getting rid of these jeans at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t. Sewing to the rescue!
This is the last project for a while in a series of upgraded casual wear. Over the past several weeks, I have made myself a sophisticated hoodie, a long-sleeved pullover and a versatile sleeveless knit top. What I really needed most was a pair of pants to wear instead of my increasingly ratty jeans. I came across a neat pants idea while leafing through some magazines. They were a pair of jogger-style pants, but made with dressy woven fabric. With pockets and an elastic waistband, they would be as easy to wear as sweatpants, but look much better.
The magazines I perused where back issues of Burda Style. They were a neat magazine because each issue included a pull-out with something like 50 multi-size full-scale patterns. The glossy pages showed all of the clothes styled different ways and the instructions for making them. Even though I loved reading it, I never made any of the designs. I had heard that Burda patterns were especially tricky, and I guess that might have kept me away. These pants really called to me and they had an “Easy” rating, so I went ahead and dived in.
Side note – Burda no longer offers a US-only version of the Burda Style magazine. They still produce an international English language version. They also have an excellent website, where you can choose from a large selection of PDF patterns. The pants pattern from my magazine is there, and can be downloaded for $5.99.
I have so much to say about the Burda Style magazine process that I am splitting this project into two posts. Part 2 will feature the pants and my thoughts on construction.
There is quite a difference between Burda and what I am used to. Here are the steps you go through to get from magazine to finished product.
Determine your European pattern size by comparing your measurements to the table in the instructions section.
Find your pattern in the instructions section. Be careful: there are going to be several garments that share pattern pieces, so make sure you are looking at the right one. The pant front and back pieces were used in at least 3 other sets of instructions.
Read the instructions carefully. Here you will find fabric layouts, fabric suggestions, and notion lists. You will also find a list of pattern piece numbers and the letter (A,B,C,D) corresponding to their page in the pull-out.
The pull-out consists of 2 large sheets printed front and back. Like most multi-size patterns, each size has its own line style. Unlike most patterns, groups of pieces that go together are printed in one color. Other groupings are printed on the same page in their own color. There is so much going on in the sheets, you may find it helpful to use a highlighter to trace just the lines you need.
Once you located your pieces, trace them onto your own paper. Transfer all of the grainline arrows, notches, etc. Leave some extra room.
Add your desired seam allowance around the edge of the traced pieces.
If there are rectangular pieces in the garment, they will not have printed pattern outlines. You will have to measure and cut them or make a pattern piece. Strangely, the measurements given for the rectangles include a 5/8 seam allowance.
Cut out the pieces and start assembly. Again, read carefully. There are no illustrations in the pattern instructions.
From here, it actually was easy to sew.
So, would I do another pattern like this? Sure. It was a good value and I really like the style. But this time I would be going in with my eyes open. A similar pattern with step by step illustrated instructions would obviously be easier and faster. Still, Burda has a lot of styles that can’t be found anywhere else. If I keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, maybe one day I will be brave enough to try Marfy.
While I wait for a replacement for my leaky iron, I’ve been thinking about how to use what I already have. Lately I have been pondering what to do with my scraps.
You can always use your scraps to practice on, or rip into strips to tie up your tomatoes. But you love that pattern! Every time you see it in your stash you sigh and put it back. It’s just too small. Or is it?
Here are some things to do with that piece that you may not have thought of:
Color blocking and piecing
Headbands, barrettes, bows
Napkins (assemble a mixed set)
Small bags (coin purses, earphone case, etc.)
Sachets for your drawers
Of course, these are just a few possibilities. What do you do with your scraps?
I made a mistake. I admit it. I was trucking along with my project. Everything was going great. I even remembered to take pictures for the blog along the way and then…
<<Cue the needle slipping off the record sound effect>>
I went to pin on the second sleeve and my marks wouldn’t line up. That can’t be right. Yes, it was. Two right sleeves and no left one. What’s worse, I didn’t have enough scrap to cut another!
I truly admire people who can calmly put aside their aggravation and move on to something else. You rock, patient people! (Of course, they probably wouldn’t have messed up the sleeve in the first place). As for me, I told myself it would be funny in the morning and went to bed.
Next morning, still not funny! But at least I could cheerfully apply myself to finding a solution. I looked at what if I just sewed it on anyway (no, bad, don’t)? What if I pieced a sleeve from scraps (ugh, definitely not)? What if I shortened both sleeves (that would work, but I would never wear it)? I knew that the fabric was sold out, so I couldn’t get more. Or could I?
Yes, I could! It was restocked! How had I missed that?
I know not all sewing adventures have such happy endings. We are not little clothing factories. For the most part, most of us are making something we have never made before. It takes a leap of faith to try creative efforts and a lot of people aren’t that brave. So, here’s to the mistake makers who try!