Archive for the ‘Tutorial’ Category

Sewing Tutorials for CRAFT Zine!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I have had the pleasure of writing several tutorials lately for CRAFT zine. Check out the Sewing 101: Hems article from a couple of weeks ago where I discuss 6 types of hem treatments, including working with bias tape and twin needles.

And then there is the new Sewing 101: Zippers that just went up today where I show you how to install both regular and invisible zippers.

Stay tuned for Buttonholes and Buttons!

tension experiment

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

tension experiment, originally uploaded by queen puff puff.

Sarah had some good feedback about the tension on the elastic thread. Other tutorials say to wind the bobbin with NO tension while the thread instructions say to use loose to firm tension. So I decided to do a comparison. The sample of the left has absolutely no tension while the one on the right is pretty tight. Both of them were sewn wth a stitch length of 3mm, jtop tension set at 4 and on the same light muslin.

And….. the results look pretty similar; although I do think the gathers are tighter on the sample with the tighter tension. But I actually like the softness of the one on the left.

What do you think?

One Hour Dress Tutorial

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

One Hour Dress Tutorial, originally uploaded by queen puff puff.

You can make this dress in about an hour using elastic thread to create shirring (soft gathers) which will add shaping. Elastic thread is super easy to work with but does take a little practice to get right. Definitely practice on some scrap fabric to get the hang of it.

First, figure out how long you want the dress to be and cut 2 lengths of fabric that length. Stitch them together along one side to make one big wide piece of fabric that is your length and 88″ wide (for 45″ wide quilting cotton). Go ahead and finish this seam by either serging, pinking or zig zagging. Now hem the top and bottom edges. You can do a rolled hem on a regular sewing machine, a rolled hem on a serger or any sort of small hem you want. (You just don’t want lose very much length.)

Now on to the elastic thread! Elastic thread only comes in white or black but that’s OK because you only use it in the bobbin so you’ll never see it anyway. You have to hand wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin and you want to wind it with a bit of tension. How tight you wind it will determine how much it gathers your fabric. So if you wind it really tight you’ll have really gathered or shirred fabric.

Lengthen your stitch length to about 3mm and adjust your tension to 5 (but play around this a bit on your scrap). Load your bobbin and stitch some practice rows. The fabric should start gathering up as you stitch. If it’s not then the thread either got wound too loose, your top tension is too loose or your bobbin tension is too loose. If it gathers too much, then tension is too tight.



When everything looks good, you are ready to move on to your dress. You want to stitch 2 to 3 parallel rows of shirring stitches across the top edge of your dress. Make the rows about 1/2″ apart and start them a 1/2″ from the top edge. It’s helpful to mark your rows on the fabric with tailor’s chalk or an air soluble fabric marker.

Now hold the dress up to and figure out where your natural waist is. Now do 4-6 rows of gathered stitches at the waist that are each 1/2″ apart. Your dress should be fitted above and below the bust creating an hourglass shape.

Finally, you are going to stitch the other side seam and finish the seam the same way you finished the first side seam. Voila! You’re done!

TUTORIAL - How to do a rolled hem on a serger

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Your serger is great for sewing seams on knits and stretch fabrics and also for finishing seam allowances neatly. But it can do other things too! One of my favorite uses for my serger is to do rolled hems. A rolled hem is were the machine folds the fabric under a tiny bit and then stitches it. You will frequently see this around the edges of napkins and tablecloths but also on a lot of knit clothing, You may have seen rolled hems done on a standard machine but this is MUCH faster and easier!

All sergers are different but the basics are the same. I’ll walk you through the steps.

Here’s a serger set up for standard serging. Do you see that stitch finger just above and right of the foot? You want to disengage that. On most sergers, you simply pull a switch forward to slide the finger forward and out of the way. For other sergers the stitch finger is attached to the needle plate and you switch to a rolled hem plate. Be sure to check your manual.

First thing, disengage or remove the upper knife. Usually this is as easy as turning a knob. Next, I pull the red switch forward to switch from S for standard to R for rolled.

Next, shorten your stitch length to R (again, for Rolled. Clever, huh?) which is basically 1 1/2.

With your fabric face up, slide it under the presser foot ad start stitching. You see how the fabric folds under the threads stitch over the edge. (FYI, I just use 3 threads for this, no need for the 2nd needle thread).

Here’s a view from the wrong side. The right side view is up top. That’s it! Very simple. You can try other variations likes shortening the stitch even more to create a marrow edge or stretch the fabric to create a lettuce edge.

Tools of the Trade

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Today’s post is about the sewing tools that I use on a daily basis. I truly believe that the right tools make the job easier and faster!

This is my daily sewing machine. It’s a Janome 1600P and it’s basically a portable industrial machine. It only does a straight stitch but considering that is all I use in my business that is just fine. It sews a lightening fast 1600 stitches per minute, can sew through 6 layers of denim like they were nothing, has a knee lift, up/down setting and a separate motor for winding bobbins. This machine has easily cut my sewing time in half!

The best iron of all time! This is the Black and Decker Classic and I love that it looks straight out of the fifties (and it’s only about $30). But I love the way it functions even more! It has all metal construction so it won’t crack and leak water when you inevitably drop it. It gets hotter than the more expensive irons and its heavier (all that metal) so you don’t have to press as hard. Finally, it does not have the pesky auto shut off feature so it will be hot when you get up from the sewing machine. But you do need to be careful to turn it off when you are not using it.


The thing on the left is a loop turner and it basically a glorified latch hook that is invaluable for turning tubes of fabric for purse handles and spaghetti straps. The gizmo on the right is a bodkin and it works like reverse tweezers. the ring slides to create a tight grip and it’s very handy for threading elastic and drawstrings.

This last tool is called a point turner and I use it to push out the corners on pockets. Much safer than using your scissors!!!

What are your favorite tools of your trade?

Fuse & Trace Your Patterns!

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Fuse & Trace Your Patterns!, originally uploaded by queen puff puff.

I don’t know a single person that likes patterns printed on tissue paper. My favorite patterns are printed on stiffer bond paper or even tag board. But most pattern companies print on lightweight and flimsy tissue that tears and floats away. So what to do?

I iron fusible interfacing to the back of my tissue patterns before I cut them out. It makes them stiff, gives them weight and makes them easier to cut. You’ll also find that they last a LOT longer. You can really use any sort of fusible. I always save my scraps and use those. You can piece together leftovers scraps so it’s a good stash buster!

1. Cut your pattern pieces apart. You don’t need to cut on the line here, just quickly separate them so they are easier to do deal with.

2. Place a pattern piece face down on your ironing board and TURN THE STEAM OFF ON YOUR IRON. Seriously, steam and paper is a bad combo. Quickly iron the pattern flat, making sure there aren’t any creases or wrinkles. Place a piece of interfacing on top of the pattern GLUE SIDE DOWN and quickly fuse on the interfacing. Flip to the right side and give it a quick iron. Repeat for all of your other pieces.

3. Now go ahead and cut out all your pattern pieces. You’ll notice that it’s much easier to cut the fused pattern than soft and flimsy tissue. Cut in your notches. (Just chop off any triangle notches and clip into the triangle)

4. Now lay your fabric out and place your pattern pieces according to the cutting layout. Instead of pinning, just weigh down your pattern pieces with anything heavy like soup cans, tape dispensers, etc. (I never pin because it takes too long and buckles the fabric.)

5. Trace around each pattern piece with tailor chalk, a fabric marker or even a Sharpie. Be sure to mark all your notches!

6. Remove your pattern pieces and cut out your fabric by cutting on the inside of your lines.
This technique is so much faster, easier and more accurate. Give it a try and you’ll never pin again!!!