General · Needlework · Useful Thing

Sewing Gift Guide 2: Stocking Stuffers and Nifty Little Tools

Here are my picks for inexpensive little things every person who sews will enjoy. All of these gifts are under $25, and most of them are small enough to fit in a stocking. Just sayin’.

Key (USD):
  • $ Under 10
  • $$ Between 10-25
Stocking Stuffers
Hand embroidery pocket reference can accompany projects on the go. At Amazon $

Seam ripper with magnifying glass and LED light. How many times have you wanted this when you were trying to see those black stitches in black fabric? From Amazon $

So much better than using tape to mark seam widths on your sewing machine(s). Comes with a little booklet. From Amazon $

Set of 100 little clips in a tin container. Every home sewing area needs these. They make it so easy to attach binding, work with small fiddly seams and more. From Amazon $




There are a lot of cute pincushions out there, but this is my current favorite. Pincushion hedgehog from AsNiceAsMice on Etsy. $$
Keep your fingers safe from burns when you iron with silicone finger guards. These are great because they your fingernails free. Perfect for people with long nails! Amazon $.
This flexible strip of LED lights can be stuck onto any machine that needs more light. From Amazon $$.
I have both the 5/8 and the 3/8 version of this ruler and I use them on almost every clothing sewing project. They make adjusting patterns so easy! This is the 5/8 inch pattern drafter ruler from SA Curve on Amazon. $$


Missed my first gift guide? Find it here: Sewing Gift Guide 1: Handmade and Made to Make.

I’ll be back soon with an update on the winter coat project. Until then, happy shopping!

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General · Needlework · Useful Thing · Whimsy

Sewing Gift Guide 1: Handmade and Made to Make

This is the time of year that people start casting around for what to give for the holidays. If you are shopping for the person in your life who sews, or just for yourself, keep reading.

Key (USD):
  • $ Under 10
  • $$ Between 10-25
  • $$$ Between 25-50
  • $$$$ Over 50

When you make things for other people, you really appreciate how much effort and thought goes into handmade gifts. Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to make a handmade gift this year. But you can purchase items that someone else has crafted, and support small businesses at the same time. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together some of my favorite handmade gift ideas from people who sell on Etsy.com.

Made to Make

Here are several ideas for complete pre-packaged projects. It’s always fun to have a new toy to play with after all the gifts are opened, isn’t it?

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Complete empbroidery kit from HoffeltandHooperCo. Multiple colors, sizes and designs. $$$+
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Learn how to needle felt by making a tiny cactus. Kits from BenzieDesign. $$
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Felted pompom garland kit – pick colors, how many and what size felt ball. From BenzieDesign. $-$$$

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Complete beginner starter kit for sashiko embroidery from MikkeJapan $$
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Scrappy rope rug kit from SewHungryHippie. $$
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Peace dove hand stitching kit from CynthiaTreenStudio $$$

Little Luxuries

Now I know that you would never take the pleasure of buying fabric away from your favorite person who sews. But there are lots of other sewing goodies that they would love to own but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pattern weights

Pattern weights can be just about anything (I have been known to use soup cans). But it’s much more fun to have a set that makes you smile. Here are some great handmade options.

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3D printed pattern weight set from thegigglingriz. $$

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Realistic donuts! from SewCuteNQuirky $$$

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Marble pattern weights from SewStitchinSouthern. $$$ Customizing available.

Design Tools

Design and sewing go hand in hand. How about a few items that help to collect and plan those creative ideas?

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Sewing Theme Vision Board from LuckyJo11 $$$ Customizable

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Hardcover fashion designer’s notebook includes 140 women’s figure templates and more from EnchantedFabric. $$

Pressing Tools

I found some tools for the ironing station that many people who sew do without – but they shouldn’t! Here are some beautiful additions to anyone’s work space.

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Ham holder and clapper from JacksonsWoordworksLLC. $$$

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Custom tailor’s ham and sleeve roll set from StitchNerd. $$$$

Thread

Opening a package with a rainbow of color never fails to please. How about giving some high-end thread? It’s a little luxury your sewing friend will enjoy whether undertaking elaborate embellishment, basting or just mending a tear.

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Sashiko Thread Set – 15 skeins from SnugglyMonkey $$$
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Japanese cotton basting thread (multiple colors available) from AliceInStitchesArts $

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Embroidery Floss: Sublime Stitching Mingles Set from SnugglyMonkey $
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Valdani Wool Thread Collection from AliceinStitchesArts $$$

Finishing Touch

I like it when people put labels in their handmade items. Show them that you value their unique craftsmanship by giving them custom labels. Here are a few options to get started.

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Spool of 1/2 inch printed twill tape from InkedPapers $$

 

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Custom printed satin labels from NinaTags $$

I’m pulling together another guide, which will focus on gadgets and stocking stuffers. Oh – and I’m still working on the winter coat. Updates soon!

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Fashion · General · Vintage

October Highlights at Seasonal Change-Over Time

roseabelle_5
Hats are cool

Last weekend daylight savings time began. For those of you not in the USA, it’s a charming custom whereby we set our clocks back one hour until spring. (Not everyone does this – it’s a whole big thing…)

For me, this is when autumn starts to feel real. Here in Rhode Island, the sun is now setting at 4:30PM! I think at a subconscious level, I knew I had to prepare. October found me as busy as a squirrel collecting acorns and about as focused. Unfortunately, that meant that many projects have gone unblogged.

Rather than go into a lot of detail (for a change), I’m just going to share some October highlights.

Fall Wardrobe Sewing

tan_floral_skirt_3I didn’t do a lot of ambitious sewing in October. I finished a few projects I started earlier in the year though.

I made another pull-on knit circle skirt from the Butterick B6578 pattern. The skirt was part of my original Fall 2018 sewing plan and coordinates nicely with the rest of the collection. I made View A. The fabric is a nice brushed poly from Sincerely Rylee.

Also for Fall, I made a neat cloche hat with leftover green twill. More on that below.

I also finished another fit and flare top using McCall’s M7356. This top was actually constructed from my original muslin. The fabric is way too thin, but I never intended to use it for real. I just really liked how the muslin looked. So I took out all of the basting and put it together properly. There are a few imperfections, but I think with a camisole I will wear it a lot. I go into more detail on my pattern review here.

Above: Fall cloche and fit and flare top

Vintage Handkerchiefs
handkerchiefs_1
Some of my nifty new old things – oh, the possibilities!

My Mom has saved all kinds of interesting things, including a number of old handkerchiefs from the 1930s to the 1960s. I took some back to Providence after my last visit to incorporate into my fabric stash. After a bit of effort, I now have 34 clean, ironed bits of old-fashioned charm. The collection is a veritable needlecraft sampler, with hemstitching, tatted lace, appliqué, embroidery, and crocheted edges. I can’t wait to start playing around with them! I have already started a board on Pinterest to collect ideas.

handkerchiefs_2
I blocked some of the lacier handkerchiefs

Halloween

suffragist_1Spoiler: I did not sew my costume. But I will take credit for making the accessories that pulled it together. This year I dressed as a suffragist. I can well imagine that this might have been me in reality if I have been alive 100 years ago.

The dress I found in my Mom’s closet – she wore it in the 1970s. Since we have an election around the corner, I thought a suffragist would be fun.

I found a free downloadable cloche pattern which I used to throw together a vintage style hat. I’ve never made a hat before. It was much easier than I thought. Since the individual pieces are so small, I was able to use scraps alone. The ribbon is even saved from a Christmas package. I wound up making two hats because I misread the instructions the first time and sewed the seams with too narrow of an allowance. This led to a large and loose hat, which someone else might enjoy some day. I cut out another hat, following the directions the second time. The fabric is scavenged from the scraps of my fall 2018 collection, so it coordinates with everything. It’s already found it’s way into my closet. I reviewed the pattern on patternreview.com here. The pattern itself was from the website sewmamasew.com. There are gorgeous versions of this cloche and other styles for sale on Etsy at the Etsy store Elsewhen Millenery.

suffragist_3
The sash came out again on election day. It felt pretty good to wear it at the polling place.

I made the sash using some plain unbleached muslin. The lettering was really easy. I found a font that was close to the one used by the marchers in historical photos. I typed the words, scaled them to the size needed for the sash, then flipped them to be mirror image. Then I used my inkjet printer to print it on an Avery light fabric transfer sheet. I followed the instructions on the box to iron the lettering onto my sash. I think it looks great.

Knitting

hat-2As if that were not enough, I somehow found myself in a yarn store early in the month. I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a yarn shop without buying anything. This time was no exception. I have been knitting my way through my purchases. So far, I have finished two winter hats, both with the same yarn. I’m keeping one for me and the other for donating. I have a bunch of other works in progress, which I will add to the blog as I finish. For other knitters (and curious onlookers), you can find my work going back to 2004 on Ravelry.com here.

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Winding yarn for the next project
Embroidery

I finished a couple of embroidered day-of-the-week dishtowels recently. Aren’t they adorable? They are made in the same way as the ones in this post from earlier this year, only with a different iron-on design. You can find the puppy design here.

 

Mending and Editing

I have been making my way through the work basket as well lately. In the past month, I have mended or altered at least 6 items from my work pile. They have all been there so long that it seems like I just went shopping and came home with 6 new things. I haven’t seen the bottom of the pile yet, but I think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll feature some of the more interesting upcycles in the coming months.

Coming in November:

  • I make a winter coat
  • Craft and gift projects
  • Holiday gift guide

Whew!

Until then, happy sewing!

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General

A Little Planning, a Little Crafting

Hello readers! It’s been a while, but I haven’t been completely idle. I took a short break from sewing clothes to work on a few craft projects. It was refreshing to work on something different for a while (square corners! simple shapes! colors I would never wear!). It cleared my mind and enabled me to take a new approach to seasonal sewing: a plan. There will be many garments made from scratch, but there will also be upcycling and wardrobe edits.

Here’s a little teaser for upcoming clothing sewing:

I’ve also started to use Pinterest boards to collect ideas for upcoming seasons. Check it out here: See Cindy Sew Pins.

If you are new here and want to dig in to what I’ve been making, you can now browse through projects in my new gallery. You can always get back to it by clicking on the Gallery link under the masthead. Cell phone users will find it under the Menu button.

If you are shopping online for your Fall projects, please consider shopping through my links. I have had nothing but good experiences from these vendors.

As I get in gear for the next round of sewing, I’ll be sharing short posts on my recent craft items. There might be a few last minute sundresses in there too. It’s still Summer for another week, after all!

So until next time, happy sewing!

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Please share your thoughts and ideas about anything in this post or whatever is on your mind. I would love to hear from you!

Fashion · Fitting · General

Quick Jeans Edit – Topstitch Hem

jeans_topstitching_9
So professional looking!

I’ve hemmed jeans on the blog before, I know. This time though, I’m taking it up a notch with some jeans-thread topstitching.

The last time I did some outlet shopping, I found some jeans that almost fit for $16 (yay, me!). The only problem was that they were over 4 inches too long. Fortunately, hemming pants is one of the easiest sewing projects there is. These were straight leg, making it even easier.

jeans_topstitching_1
Mark length with pin

I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
  2. Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
  3. Take out the pin. Measure up from the bottom the calculated number of inches and mark. Be careful to mark the same distance all the way around both legs.
  4. Cut at the marked line.
  5. Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
  6. Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
  7. Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
jeans_topstitching_3
Measure and mark

To get the factory-made jeans look, the right topstitching is essential. When you think of jeans details, you think of heavy thread in shades of gold, white, and neutrals. I found that there are many options available. You can find thread made specifically for jeans, but any thread in the heavier weight ranges is worth considering. Think about whether you want soft or hard, matte or shiny, heavy or really heavy. Here are some to try:

jeans_topstitching_2
Ready to cut

You will need the right size needle for your thread. I used a size 14/90 universal needle for my TEX 60 weight thread. It worked well on the first try, so I didn’t try any other sizes. However, if I were to use a TEX 80 or 100 weight thread, I would go up to a 16/100. Schmetz, Klasse and Singer make a range of needles specifically for jeans which are supposed to be more durable when sewing through multiple layers. You can also get double needles. These are great if you want to be extra sure you stitch parallel lines and come with different spacing. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I get into sewing a lot of denim, I’m sure I will.

I never really thought about it before, but there isn’t any reason that the bobbin and the upper thread have to match. In fact, what seems to work best for jeans is a bobbin thread in a normal weight the same color as the denim.

jeans_topstitching_6
Topstitching thread in needle, navy blue all-purpose in bobbin

Fortunately, my machine sews through thick fabrics and “bumps” without a hitch. I have found that with other machines a “hump jumper” can save a lot of frustration when going over seams. You can make your own with some folded tagboard or you can buy them ready-made. A walking foot can also help your machine cope with the thick layers.

Your machine shouldn’t need any tension or other fancy adjustments. You will just want to make sure it is sewing the longest possible straight stitch to start.

Once I had my machine set up, I lined up the bottom edge of the jeans with the edge of my presser foot. This worked well for stitching the first line. The second line was done in much the same way, just using the first line of stitching as my visual edge guide.

jeans_topstitching_7
Maintain even stitching by aligning presser foot with jeans edge

Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!

Next time, sewing for patternreview.com’s Shirtdress Contest.

Until then…

Happy sewing!

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jeans_topstitching_8
Align presser foot with first line of stitching for second line
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Completed topstitching
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The navy bobbin thread blends right in. Maybe I should get some navy serger thread too!
General · Home Dec · Vintage · Whimsy

Hand Embroidered Dishtowels

embroidery1

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.

embroidery8
A scrap I saved from one of Mom’s well-worn towels. They were always machine washed in hot with bleach! The embroidery outlasted the towels.

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.

embroidery3
Project 2: Days of the Week Birdhouses on Flour Sack Towels

If you would like to give embroidery a try, here are a few resources to get started:

Patterns and Transferring
  • Iron-on transfers: I found Aunt Martha and a variety of others on EtsyCreateforLessAmazon and EBay
  • How to transfer designs – Here’s a nice overview of various methods from Mary’s Kitchen
Skills
Materials
General

2018 Sewing Plans

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:

  • January – Marfy Blouse
  • February – Style Arc Pants
  • March – Easter Dress
  • April – Backpack
  • May – Couture Dress
  • June – Rashguards
  • July – Lace Dress
  • August – Jeans
  • September – Vintage Patterns
  • October – Halloween Costume
  • November – Winter Coat
  • December – Holiday Finery

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? I have a few sewing goals I would like to meet this year. Let’s call them resolutions and make it official.

  1. Keep up with alterations and repairs. By the end of January, I will get to the bottom of my mending pile.
  2. Upcycle more. Repurpose or rehabilitate those fabric items that need a new life.
  3. Incorporate trims, embellishments, and decorative techniques in my designs.

I have a few goals for SeeCindySew as well.

  1. Bring you great images of works in process and finished items by improving my photography.
  2. Establish a regular schedule for posts.

Last year, my goal was to get organized. I’m checking that one off. Now I just need to keep it like this! Did I ever mention I love blue tape?

Do you have sewing goals this year?

Happy new year, readers! And happy sewing as well!

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Fashion · General

Quick Fix: Coverstitch Cut-offs

Front View
Old jeans to new summer staple

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.

Open Seam
Inside with side seam opened and spread flat.

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.

Press and Mark Hem
Hem pressed and stitching line marked

I had contemplated getting rid of these jeans at first, but I’m really glad I didn’t. Sewing to the rescue!

Inside Cutoffs Coverhem
Finished hem: inside
Finished Hem Top
Finished hem: right side
Back View
I could live in these
Fashion · General

Easy Pull-On Cuffed Pants Part 1

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This could be me!

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.

burdapaper - 1
This might take a while.
  1. Determine your European pattern size by comparing your measurements to the table in the instructions section.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Once you located your pieces, trace them onto your own paper.  Transfer all of the grainline arrows, notches, etc.  Leave some extra room.
  6. Add your desired seam allowance around the edge of the traced pieces.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Continue to Part 2

 

General · Useful Thing

20 Ways to Use Your Scraps

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:

  1. Bias tape
  2. Quilt squares
  3. Pocket linings
  4. Facings
  5. Doll clothes
  6. Covered buttons
  7. Multi-colored projects
  8. Accent stripes
  9. Color blocking and piecing
  10. Contrast welting
  11. Headbands, barrettes, bows
  12. Luggage tags
  13. Pattern weights
  14. Applique
  15. Patches
  16. Baby clothes
  17. Patches
  18. Napkins  (assemble a mixed set)
  19. Small bags (coin purses, earphone case, etc.)
  20. Sachets for your drawers

Of course, these are just a few possibilities.  What do you do with your scraps?