Thursday, February 22, 2024

Not Modern Enough to Use Modern Conveniences

This is for all of you out there using something other than your hands to raise and lower the presser foot on your sewing machines. 

knee lift rodsewing machine
I have two Bernina sewing machines and both have the option to insert a rod like this into that little hole on the front.  This view is on my 1001 model but my newer 350 model has it as well.  Both came with the knee lift rods.  The bend in the rod allows it to go under your table so you can "simply" press your knee against it and it will raise and lower your presser foot, hands free.  I say "simply" in quotes because I have no idea how simple it is to use. 

Confession:  I've had my Bernina 1001 for almost 30 years and a newer 350 but I've always been afraid to use the knee lift.  Why?  Two very silly reasons.  For one, I don't know how to use it and never bothered to look at a video.  But mostly because I've always been afraid that I'd get so used to it, I wouldn't ever be able to use a sewing machine that didn't have this option, no matter how good the rest of the options might be.  

Anyone else out there have this problem?  You have access to a modern convenience that will make your life so much better but you won't use it in case you love it and can't live without it?  I'm looking at you, backup cam in my car.  I refused to use it in case I become so reliant on it, I can't back up the old fashioned way.  This happens more than I'd like which is a great example of irony because the very crux of my job is technology and how it can be leveraged to improve things.

This must be a GenX problem, right?

Back to why I've called you all here.

The more I see people in their videos appearing to magically raise and lower presser feet without no hands, the more I wonder why on earth I have two machines that will do this and refuse to bother.  Isn't this the kind of thing I would LOVE?  I'm all about efficiency and surely the micro milliseconds I will save not moving my hand to raise and lower the presser foot will make my life so much better, right?  So I keep thinking, I should really figure this out.

sewing space
And I sat down to think about thinking about it and came up with a new dilemma.  How does the knee lift work if you have a standing desk?  When I upgraded my sewing space a few years ago, I left behind the old sit at a table thing and put in a counter where all of my machines live.  The 350 is missing from this picture but it sits to the left of the 1001 most of the time.  I stand or use the stool.  When I'm quilting or trying to sew something unwieldy like these grain bags, I bring it to a table so I can spread everything out.  At that table I do sit, but when I'm doing anything else, I'm at this counter.  I don't think I can stand and press the knee lift and the way I have everything arranged, I'm not sure I can sit on the stool and use it either.  I know I could just try it and see what happens but I also know that if I use it once and LOVE it and then find out I can't use it in my current set up, I'm going to be so mad and rethink everything about the set up I like so much.  

It's very complicated here in my brain when I'm having such first world dilemmas.

I'd love to hear from you if you use a knee lift system and especially if you use it with a standing desk or something similar to mine.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Not Your Average Grain Bag

grain bags repurposed

A few years back, I learned how to make a bag from some kind of tutorial that had very specific dimensions in mind in the tutorial.  

One thing led to another, and I realized you can make any size you want, make it as deep and wide as you want, add handles, etc.  You can even add pockets inside or outside!  That one takes some pre-thinking and I won't tell you how many times I didn't pre-think correctly and have had weird pockets in weird places.

I did correctly pre-think on this one and successfully incorporated the whale into my design.  The inside pocket locations were questionable though.

I don't remember if the original had you make a lining, but it's as simple as making another bag with the same dimensions and then sewing the two together.  This hides all of the seams and you get that fun experience of "birthing the bag" where you pull it all through so everything is right side out. 

I made this tutorial to give everyone just a nugget of an idea.  Once you get the concept, you'll be off and running!

My  latest endeavor has been trying to find ways to upcycle grain bags from the barn.  We have all of these grain bags from the enormous amounts of grain they eat, and most just get thrown away.  I've seen a lot of people just wash them, cut them down a little bit, make handles from the parts they cut away and sell them as is.  

I tried that but I didn't like the result.  Too noisy and the handles were terrible.  I didn't really trust their durability.  I learned after making this bag with the fancy handles that webbing is really the best way to make durable straps for a bag.  They last forever and I've been known to upcycle from one bag to another.

Fast forward to my overactive brain thinking I should quilt some batting scraps to the back of the grain bags and then line them.  That quieted things down nicely and then I got creative with pockets and linings.
My favorite addition is this green fabric on the webbed straps.  Webbing comes in a variety of colors, but darker is really better if it's going to be a bag that might get dirty or used a lot.  The green in the brand name got me thinking and I found some fabric in my stash to match so I sewed it on top.
The fun didn't stop there.  From the scraps of leftover scraps, I made a little clip holder for my sewing room.
All of the bags (not my little clip holder) are available in my etsy shop.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Winners All Around

back view of a hoodie
A couple of months go, I won some "misprint" fabrics from Waymaker Fabrics.  They were hardly misprints.  Two of them seemed to have absolutely nothing wrong with them and one had a clear misprint but it was easy to work around.

Melvin's birthday is right after Christmas and while I found things to get him for Christmas, I was really stuck for something for his birthday.  I don't usually make clothes for other people, mostly because I don't think I'll get the size right or they will pull too hard and a seam will pop, but his mother has made some clothes for him, so I asked if there was a pattern she uses for a hoodie.  I figure you can't really go wrong with a hoodie.

She recommended the kids Classic Sweatshirt from Peek A Boo patterns.  I thought about fabric I had on hand and thought this black and gold from Waymaker Fabrics might be kind of cool.  It's not my kind of print but it seemed like something he'd wear.  

side view of a hoodie
The fabric is an athletic stretch, like you'd wear for leggings, so I wanted to line it to  make it a little warmer.  This kid lives in hoodies and tries to wear them as coats.  I had some thin waffle knit that I thought would be perfect because it's a little too thin to make a shirt out of but it would give a little warmth to this without making it too thick to sew.  
excited boy in hoodie

I cut the pieces out of the main fabric and the lining and then just sewed them together as thought it was one fabric.  I didn't want to go through the effort of sewing two hoodies and then sewing them together.  They stuck to each other pretty well, probably because it's winter and static is the name of the game around here in the winter months.  

The instructions were clear and easy to follow and I kind of guessed on the sizing.  At first, I felt like it would almost fit me and he's not that big, so I was afraid it would swim on him.  I think it's a pretty good fit and he seemed to like it!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Falling For A Henley

Henley line drawing
I’ve never been quite sure if I like a Henley neckline.  They look like this line drawing that I grabbed from the pattern, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I’ve seen them with and without buttons and sometimes, the buttons even go up higher than the buttonholes which has always puzzled me.  I’ve seen the placket this width but also wider.  The biggest reason I’m never sure if I like a Henley is because it usually looks very casual, to the point of just rolled out of bed and grabbed some long underwear to throw on before I do chores.  Is it old timey?  That’s not usually a reason for me to avoid a piece of clothing.  I don’t really know what has turned me off to them in the past.

Fast forward to the beginning of the month when Rivet Patterns was looking for testers for a Henley.  But not just any old Henley.  The Hawthorn Henley could be a top or a dress, has a bunch of sleeve lengths and it’s designed so that you could have buttons or no buttons on the placket.  The no button option piqued my interest because I thought I could class it up a little and change my mind about henleys.

And by class it up, I mean make it look like more than just a shirt to do chores.  My clothing tends to be work wear or looked like I climbed out of the gutter.  There’s no weekend casual for me.  It’s “nice” or “WHAT have you been doing?”.  There’s no in between,  For me, a typical Henley isn’t really work wear and I don’t need extra clothing for mowing the grass and getting dirty. 

I had just the fabric in mind for this classy idea.

But first, as with every pattern, I needed to do a muslin, which is a test drive.  It’s best not to just wing it with a new pattern and use your favorite fabric, especially if it’s a pattern test.  Pattern testing can sometimes have many versions before the final is working for everyone, so sometimes, you have to make it a few times to get it just right.  

Even with designers I’ve used before, I always do a muslin to make sure a new pattern fits the way I expect because things don’t always sit on the body the way we imagine.  Especially with my vivid imagination that forgets I’m not tall and my torso is smaller than clothing thinks it should be.

Test fabric
My muslin was done in this stellar fabric that I got in a mystery box.  It’s some kind of double brushed poly and I knew I’d never wear this in public.  Not even for “WHAT have you been doing” activities.  But it was perfect to test a pattern and I had enough to make the top twice which was fantastic.  

When testing, I don’t like to change fabrics if I have to make a second or third version because then I’m not sure if the changes in fit are due to a different fabric or because I made a change to the pattern pieces.

In this case, I went down a size at the top and graded to the larger size after the waist.  You may wonder where that Henley placket is.  I did it for the first one, to make sure I knew how to do it and that I could follow the instructions.  When Rachelle gave me tips for my second attempt, she wisely said not to bother with the Henley placket and just to do the regular neckline to save time.  

There are instructions and a pattern piece for just a regular neckline like this!  This pattern really covers it all!

Long sleeved top
This fabric is a crinkle rayon and my original thought was to make this a dress with the regular placket length and no buttons, and long sleeves with the nice flow but no cuffs.  Just elastic.  This ended up being the last one that I made and  it is too sheer to work as a dress so I made a top.

While I normally have to shorten patterns up to 3 inches at the shorten/lengthen lines in the torso, for this pattern, the waist actually hit my own waist,  The length turned out to be below that for me, so I just shortened at the hemline.  It turned out to be about 2.5 inches and seeing it now, I could have gone the extra half inch and I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Short sleeved top
My first version was this pointelle that I received in a mystery box.  I love the color even though periwinkle isn’t really my thing.  I had a top like this a long time ago and loved how  the color looked on me, so I was drawn to it.  It was probably just about 1 yard, so I had to go with short sleeves. I also didn’t want to use buttons because the pointelle makes it feel a little classy.  

Classy or not, this fabric was a bear.  It didn’t quite drape the way I wanted and the holes end up being big enough that I think I need to wear something under it, which wasn’t at all what I had planned.  I love the color but, I’m really not sure I’m going to wear it.

My final version that I ended up falling in love with is one of the “grannies” fabrics from The Fabric Snob *affiliate link*.  It’s an organic cotton waffle knit that’s incredibly stretchy.  It actually has terrible recovery and shows every little finger mark as you touch it to straighten it out, but I love how this came together.  It’s very cozy with a tank top underneath for warmth in this frigid weather.  

I wanted a tunic, but we had an interesting chat in the pattern testing group that lead me to think tunic isn’t really what I mean.  I want something I can wear with leggings but most tunics end up being just a little shorter than I want.  In truth, the ideal length is something that I could wear with bare legs but might raise some eyebrows at the shortness.  I’d mostly wear it with leggings but could go bare if I wanted.  

That led to doing view B, the mini dress version, with the sleeves from view A with cuffs and a hood.  I did the placket in a very light but extremely lovely fabric that I had used for a sunshirt and added buttons (with actual buttholes that really aren’t even necessary) and decided to give the hood the same fabric as a binding.  

And then, I drove this bus completely off the road and bound the hem!

None of this binding nonsense was suggested in the tutorials but sometimes ideas take over and lead to something I end up loving.  We won’t talk about what happens when ideas take over that lead to something else.

As I wore this in the cold weather, I kept thinking that with this fabric in particular, this could be a GREAT beach cover up!  It’s absorbent and soft and cozy so you could totally end up wearing this on a cool beach afternoon!

On their own, each of the patterns is fabulous, but you might as well get the bundle because you will undoubtedly want to use something from one view on the other!  The placket isn’t hard, it just involves several steps.  It’s magic when it comes together. 

If you just like the fit, save time and effort  by going with a regular neckband and no placket.  

You could spend days deciding which sleeve style and length to do.  Better yet, make one in every sleeve style!

The tutorials from Rivet Patterns are so well done.  They are thorough.  They have excellent drawings and videos if you need the actual step by step help.  They have great links to fitting advice and tips.  I sew a lot and would say I’m advanced in my skills and I always learn something with one of their patterns.  

It’s almost like the designers actually WANT you to be a successful sewist 🙃

Monday, November 27, 2023

Frankensteined Frankie Polo

I’ve arrived at a place in my sewing where just about every pattern I see asks me what I’m going to do to change it.  It’s like a compulsion.  Sometimes, the change is minor and sometimes, like with my sweater coat, it’s nothing like anyone intended but it was exactly my vision.

Love Notions recently released the Frankie Polo and I like the split neckline.  I also like the knit bodice and sleeves with a woven collar and placket.  My first attempt was a mess and I won’t be sharing pictures or wearing it in public.  As I suspected, the neckline was too big and deep for me and there were other issues with the size I foolishly chose.  I wanted to make a fleece top for winter riding and thought I should go up from my usual size but I did  not need to!

I thought for a while about what to do.  I knew I could go down a size but that wasn’t going to fix the neckline.  I’m never a fan of Henley or polo shirts with plackets that go too far down the chest and looking at the examples on a lot of people, it just wasn’t going to be what I wanted.

Then I looked some more at the drawing of the pattern and realized it is a very boxy fit.  I kind of like a top that goes in at the curves, sometimes, so I thought about the whole thing some more and this is where the wheels get spinning so fast they either come flying off and someone gets knocked out or we fly right up to and A+ and I’m a genius. 

Could  I somehow shorten the length of the placket?

What if I shorten the placket AND mash this with a pattern that I know fits me pretty well, the Panama Tee.

First, I had to figure out how to shorten the placket.  This was one of those moments when some other being took over my body and I somehow did exactly what I wanted.  If only it was always this easy.  This v sits more where I wanted it.  Nothing choking me but also not at all revealing or wanting a stitch to keep the bottom closed.

Once I knew that would work, I had to figure out how to transfer the neckline to the Panama Tee Dress pattern that is pretty tried and true for me.  The necklines are really different in the front and different enough in the back that I knew I had to change both.  This also meant using the sleeves for the Panama Tee which I was happy about because with this fabric, I wasn’t going to have enough for the sleeves in the Frankie Polo but the Panama Tee sleeves are smaller so it was going to work!

I took both fronts pattern pieces and lined them up at the shoulder to see what I could do.  I drew both of them onto one paper, in different colors so I could keep the lines right and cut out my new front.  For the back, I only had to change a little bit but I did the same process.

Then I worried about the collar.  I figured there was no way the collar would be long enough because my new neckline seemed a little longer.  I wasn’t worried about the placket because since I shortened it, the original Frankie Polo pattern piece was plenty long enough.  But that collar.

I cut out one collar piece just to try it, once I put the front and back together.  I was amazed that it fit, I got right to work.


And then I got completely carried away with cuffs😂. The collar and cuffs came from a button down shirt that I made and stopped wearing.  My initial hope was that I could just take the collar and transfer it but that didn’t work.  Then I saw the cuffs and got really excited but quickly realized I had already, inexplicably, cut off one of the cuffs and it’s long gone.  I started from scratch and I’m pretty pleased with the detail!  They can fold back or stay as they are.

This fabric was in a mystery box from Surge Fabric Shop so I have no idea what it is.  I suspect there’s polyester in there.  But I like the stretch and drape and this tomato red is one of my favorite colors and it’s really hard to find.

I like this enough that I want to make another one but it’s not really my style.  I could easily make too many of these and it would be weird.  I wore this and couldn’t stop thinking all day that I was able to make this come to life in exactly the way I wanted it to be.  This is the danger of sewing because now I think I can just mash any patterns together to make magic and oh, I could not be more wrong!

Monday, October 16, 2023

All the Pumpkin Spice I Need

I might have raved about the modal French terry fabric from Waymaker fabrics here and all over instagram  and I’m about to do it again !  I bought the orange heather modal French terry for an unknown project.  I knew it would be orange but I wasn’t sure how bright it would be, so I didn’t know if I’d make a shirt or a dress.  

I was thrilled to see that’s it’s more like a pumpkin spice orange than a construction worker orange.  It’s super soft, which is why I love this fabric and it drapes so well!  The print is a really nice heather.  People kept telling me when I wore it that it’s such a fall dress.  Guess what folks, I’ll be wearing it all winter too!

I decided to go with a dress length and love it!  I took the Panama tee dress pattern from Alina Design Co. and added a little flair to give it some flow.  The pattern as written is a pretty straight dress so this is very swingy compared to the original.  I like the way this pattern fits and it’s become a basic I turn to again and again to try different ideas that come to me.

And now I have to buy some brown leather boots because black isn’t doing it for me with this color.  

My experience with the other two pieces of fabric that I bought from Waymaker fabrics is that the dye holds up well and the fabric doesn’t pill, so I highly recommend this fabric when you order anything!  It looks like this particular print is out of stock right now but any of the prints that are available would be marvelous on the modal French terry!  Once you wear one thing made of it, you won’t be able to think about anything else!  

Friday, September 1, 2023

Waymaker Fabrics Round 6

Pre-ordering for Round 6 is open from August 31-September 14.
As a strike sewist for Waymaker Fabrics, I chose this Blush Flowers on modal French terry as my test fabric for Round 6.  I love the peach and greencolors with the oatmeal background and I thought these colors would be perfect to go from summer to fall in a sleeveless dress.  

Woman wearing a flower print dress
The beginning of the school year can still be really hot here and well into October, I wear sleeveless tops and dresses with a sweater, if needed.  Usually its needed in the morning and then we are melting by the afternoon!  French terry can sometimes be heavy, better suited to cold weather clothes, but in the spring, I made a tank dress in French terry that was lightweight enough for summer.  I was hoping this modal French terry might be the same way. Modal is made from natural fibers and is considered a sustainable resource. I’m trying so hard to stop with polyester blends and not everything can be made from cotton.  It’s such a soft fabric, I can’t stop touching it every time I wear it!  My favorite thing is that I’ve washed it several times and there is ZERO pilling.  That’s huge for me.  I don’t love those  eco friendly fabrics out there that end up pilling or just looking old after only a few wears.

This modal French terry is also lightweight and silky without feeling wet.  I wore it twice on very hot days and did not feel like it clung to me and I never felt stuffy in it.  It made me want to make more summer dresses out of it!  It also flows really nicely and drapes well off the body.  The wrong side of this fabric is just as soft as the right side and it would make some cozy pajamas too!  People dont really do this, but what if you sewed two pieces facing each other into a winter scarf?  That would be so soft and cozy around the face!  Let's start a trend!
Round 6 includes this same print in Fire Flowers and Maroon Flowers.  I can’t stop staring at the Fire Flowers and might have to preorder some to make a cardigan for the winter!  All of mine are solids and this would be a nice twist.  You can also get these prints on canvas and I’m thinking I’d like a bag with the Fire Flowers too❤️  
Fire flowersMaroon flowers
There are other new prints in Round 6 as well as fabrics that pair well with them.  Pre-ordering is open from August 31-September 14.  You can get your print on Cotton Lycra, Tencel Cotton, Modal French Terry, Canvas, French Terry, Jersey and Athletic Knit.  The content of each fabric is listed as you choose which one you want, which I love about this company!!