Holiday Sewing Plans

Glow in the Dark Fabrics and Thread-1

What are your Holiday sewing plans? Or have you already finished? I made someone a cute little tote bag for trick-or-treating out of this fun glow in the dark fabric (get it at Quilter’s Emporium or your local quilt shop!) I also used glow in the dark thread for the monogram.

No, I don’t have a photo of the finished bag – I’m notorious for not photographing the gifts I make. But I did still have the sample monogram, which was done with puffy foam so it really stands out. I got both the thread and foam from Uncommon Thread, who carry quite a number of Sulky products.

After this, I have two Christmas gifts to finish, and then my sewing plans are about done for the year! I tend to wind down my personal sewing so I can really enjoy the Holidays. What’s on your sewing queue for the rest of the year?

Fixing a Designer Mistake

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Or how to delay mowing the lawn, even on a nice day.

I used to have respect for fashion designers, especially of handbags and luggage, but I’ve lost some of that respect recently.

I finally bought a really nice bag, not the biggest designer, but one I had been looking at for several years. It’s a lovely, faux alligator in a deep brown, just the right size for weekend trips or as a carry-on bag for the plane or train. It’s really lovely – except it’s poorly designed. Apparently they don’t bother to actually use the products they design – or they have underlings struggling to carry their bags for them.

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You see the pad for the shoulder strap is made from the same, shiny, hard, slick leather as the rest of the bag – which means it slides right off your shoulder. Ironically, the bag is lined with exactly the material that would have kept the bag on my shoulder had anyone bothered to sew it on – a flocked, velvety material.

What to do? Well my first thought was pull out a leather needle and sew on a patch of faux suede that I have. I tried to take the pad off the shoulder strap, but apparently it’s not made to come off – another point of poor design. So then I thought I just could sew along the edge, working around the strap.

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But then I thought again: wouldn’t it be easier to sew a wrap to put on there? Handle wraps for luggage have become very popular, more so as identification than as a comfort measure. I had two choices readily available in my stash: a nice fabric with a bit of no-slip sewn on, or a piece of faux suede. While the faux suede would have been OK on its own, in the end I decided to use both.

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I cut the suede to the length of the existing strap pad, then cut it wide enough to wrap around comfortably. Then I cut strips of the no slip, and of Velcro to close the wrap. I sewed the no-slip in place, sec –

Wait a minute, shouldn’t we be embroidering this? Of course we should – is that even a question? I searched on my machine for a fun little design, duplicated it three times, then added my initials to the bottom of the wrap. Don’t forget to use a topper with suede, so the stitched stand out better. I used a wash away topper as faux suede is washable, but if you use real suede or leather use a heat away topper instead.

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OK, back to the story… I sewed the no-slip in place, secured at the ends with a bit of double-sided adhesive stay tape so it wouldn’t move. Then I flipped it over and sewed the Velcro on opposite sides of the wrap (you can use the double-sided stay tape here as well if you’re having trouble holding it in place.) You’ll notice in the photo I had to add a piece of stitch-n-ditch (or you could use a spare piece of pattern paper) on top of the no-slip because, well, it stuck to the machine like it’s supposed to, didn’t it? You could sew on the Velcro first, or not use the no-slip – either way. In any case, you will want to use a walking or roller foot with the Velcro to help it feed through your machine.

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Seventy-five minutes later, I have a fun, pretty, personalized solution to a dumb-as-mud designer handbag problem. (And yes, the lawn got mowed after that.) What kind of fixes have you made on the fly?

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Quilted Machine Covers

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I think all sewing machines should come with instructions for making a cover; it would give new owners a quick project that allows them to get to know their machine, and the satisfaction of a completed project!

My machines did not come with instructions for covers, but I found these from Just Sew Patterns, who have an Etsy shop. I made one each for Sunny and Gargantua. Yes, I could have made my own patterns, but I also know myself; if I waited around for me to make the patterns, the covers would never get made.

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The covers fit fairly well, though Gargantua’s needed some adjustments as he lives in a serger table. I just left the sides open as flaps – it fits well enough I think.

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I chose an embroidery design set from Urban Threads, the Mendhika Pack. I think I used every design too, embroidering the front, back and sides of each cover.

To embroider on the quilted fabric, I used a clear wash away topper and a mesh cut away for the back.

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It was easiest to embroider each piece before assembly; sometimes I hooped the fabric with the stabilizer, sometimes I floated it on top. To affix the topper I used the basting stitch that comes with many embroidery machines.

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Quick tip; the basting stitch comes out easiest when you clip the bobbin thread from the back first, then pull the excess topper away from the front side.

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Just a few hours later and I have some lovely new covers to reduce my dusting time in the sewing room!

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Needle Pads

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While I’m one for changing needles with each project, maybe you only sewed a couple of quick seams or replaced a button on a shirt – we all need a place to keep our needles that aren’t quite used up. I was keeping them, machine and hand needles, on a magnetic pin cushion. Well, that got to be a mess. Not all machine needles have a nifty color code system for size and type; hand needles don’t have any system – and I’ll be darned if I can tell the difference between a size 8 appliqué and a size 9 sharp.

At our last Fashionista meeting, our member Nateida showed us her latest notion: a needle pad. So much tidier than my old system! But nice as a pre-made one is, it didn’t quite fit my needs. I have three machine stations where I use multiple needles, but I don’t necessarily need all those types at each station. And I wanted one for hand needles as well so I made my own! I made of list of which type and size of each needle I wanted at each station; I then used my embroidery software to create the lettering for each pad, and then embroidered them on my new machine, Sunny.

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For the main fabric I used a white sateen that was laying around, and I stabilized it with Décor Bond. I then floated each onto cut away mesh stabilizer in my hoop. Next I cut it down to size, and backed it with a foam product (I don’t know the name or where I got it from, but it’s very similar to ByAnnie’s Soft’n’Stable) followed by another layer of the sateen.

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On my first attempt I tried to sew the layers together, turn it out and topstitch it – that did not work well, the foam was too thick.

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So I rearranged the layers and bound it with a very pretty batik I had just gotten – much better! All of them are the same, except the serger needle pad; I placed a large washer in the back so it would stick to the magnetic spot in my serger table. And there we are, custom needle pads!

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There’s a washer in there!

When Embroidery Goes Wrong/ Tips for Stitching on Silk

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Happy New Year! How were your holidays? Did you make any fun projects? How about gifts for anyone (including yourself?) I made a gift for someone, and there was a glitch with the embroidery….

I made Decades of Style Pattern 5006 in a cozy wool and silk bouclé (sold out), and lined it with a lovely red charmeuse, both from my local fabric supplier Sew Much Fabric. DS5006 is a fast and fun make, a 1950’s shawl with a sleeve. I wanted to personalize this gift with a monogram so I did a practice stitch-out, no problems. Well when I put the lining fabric into the machine – problem! It seems the bobbin thread was being pulled to the front and because my practice run was done on white fabric, I couldn’t tell. But I didn’t have enough of the red charmeuse to completely remake the lining, so what to do?

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Well, I could have used another color altogether, but I felt red was the best for the black and silver bouclé. At first I tried using a fabric marker to touch up the small white spots; this turned out horribly, as the red was just enough of a different color to look bad, and the marker seeped into the rayon thread and made it dull.  I decided instead to re-stitch the design on scrap fabric and create an appliqué; I even wound a bobbin with the same color thread I was using on top, so if it got pulled through it wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately I forgot to place the topper on my second try and the silk got pulled threads, yikes! In addition, the stitching was lumping up on the back and front of the design – was the 40-wt. thread too heavy for the bobbin? To heavy for this design?

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I decided to try again, but made a few more changes: First, I cleaned out my bobbin case – always clean out your machine when you have problems stitching! It really is this simple most of the time. Second, I changed the needle, just in case; third, I used a black pre-wound bobbin; and lastly, I changed the design. In the end I decided that the original design didn’t look good in monotone, and I wanted to use a design I had successfully used before. A little while later I had a successful stitch out and was ready to sew on my appliqué. Here’s the finished monogram:

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I think it came out just fine; some may think it’s not the best solution, but an appliqué is often used to cover up old monograms instead of putting in a whole new lining, and in a way it frames it and helps it to stand out. Here are some tips for embroidery in general and silk in particular:

  • Always do a test stitch out with precisely the fabric, thread, bobbin, stabilizer and topper you intend to use. It seems like overkill, but if I had used the red silk instead of white in the practice run, I would have seen the problem before I ever touched my lining.
  • If you’re having a problem, clean out your machine and change the needle! As a friend recently reminded me….
  • Always use a topper with silk charmeuse; even a new needle can pull fabric threads because of the satin weave. A topper keeps it from pulling.
  • Try 60-wt. thread for lettering, and use 90-wt. for the bobbin. My software manufacturer confided that most lettering, though digitized for 40-wt., turns out better with the thinner thread. The original design was a lettering design, and the 40-wt. thread in the bobbin was not working. The second design was a very large satin-stitch design and worked fine with the 40-wt.
  • Even if you’ve “ruined” your fabric, you can still salvage your project: try a different design, use an appliqué, replace that part of the pattern with a new piece, etc. There’s usually something you can do to fix it!

Sashiko Stitching – By Machine

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I just finished a skirt for winter, using a faux suede from my favorite local purveyor, Sew Much Fabric. I wanted to take advantage of the thickness of the fabric and use lapped seams, topstitching and of course embroidery!

For the topstitching, I used my Baby Lock Sashiko, a specialty machine that imitates the look of hand quilting. I have to say, I really love this machine, especially since I can’t do as much hand work anymore as I would like to!

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Don’t forget to test!

While it’s a spaced stitch on the front, it’s a locked running stitch on the back. And it certainly compliments the lapped seams on my skirt!

For the embroidery I used a cut away mesh stabilizer on the back, and a wash away stabilizer on top to prevent the stitches from sinking into the pile of the suede. That’s right, a wash away – faux suede can be washed! If you want to use a topper on a fabric that can’t be washed, try a heat away. Definitely test a sample with your fabric to make sure the heat is safe for it.

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For more details on how I constructed the skirt, read my guest post, coming soon at .

Would you like to add Sashiko stitching to your next project? Contact me for more information.


Heavier Embroidery on Knits

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I’ve finished a wrap dress to go with my little jacket from last fall (read about it  here.) Since my jacket had a peacock-embroidered lining, I decided to use those designs again on the dress.

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The dress is made of ponté, a very stable, well-behaved knit. Even so, to embroider a heavy, satin-stitch design you need to give it all the help you can.

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I used a sticky wash away as the main stabilizer, but I also wanted to leave a lightweight layer so the embroidery didn’t distort too much, so I also used a mesh cut away underneath.

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I hooped both of these, then decided on placement using a template, adhered my dress to the sticky stabilizer, then added a wash away topper. The topper allows the stitches to form over the knit instead of sinking down into it.

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Afterwards I trimmed the excess stabilizers, and used a fusible tricot to back the design. This does two things: it covers the stitches to prevent irritation of sensitive skin, and also gives just a little more body and stability to the design.

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And now I have a cute and comfy travel outfit! Would you like to add embroidery to your self-made items?  Contact me for pricing and information.

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Embroidery on Knits – Something Fun for Summer!

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I recently finished this white ponté skirt – something fun and quick to sew. Before I finished construction though, I thought, wouldn’t some embroidery be nice? I took the pocket panel, hooped it with some sticky fabric-like wash away, and placed some regular wash away on top. I have a regular and heavy weight and didn’t know which would be better, if either, so I tested both. I didn’t think it made a difference, so I used the regular-weight wash away topper. I also took the opportunity to try different thread colors; I thought the pearl metallic on the bottom left would be my choice, turns out I liked the iced grey-blue better!

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Does your embroidery machine have a basting stitch? Mine does – and it helps a lot with toppers!

Don’t be afraid to try something new this summer – take away the fear by testing, testing, testing! Test your fabric, test different stabilizers (or combinations of stabilizers) test different threads, test different designs! What will you try that’s new?

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Quick Summer Project

It’s so hot outside – how about a quick embroidery project inside? I had some old, boring napkins lying around and decided to spruce them up a bit for next week’s holiday. An hour later and I have something “new” for my 4th of July table!

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This is a set of purchased napkins; had them for years, was considering getting rid of them. Then I thought, why not play around a bit? I chose a cute little hibiscus design (this one from Embroidery Library) that would be fun for summer.

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Where to put them on the napkins? I wanted all of them on the lower left corner, so I laid them out to make sure I had the correct position. If your napkins are square, this won’t matter so much. Mine are “hand woven” and were cut before washing so they shrunk into a rectangle.

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Let’s pick a color; it’s a hibiscus, so something bright – maybe one of these?

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Four napkins, four embroidery runs – how to make this quicker? Well if you have a large enough hoop and a small enough design, you can lay all four corners into one hooping and have a single run on your embroidery machine.

For these types of projects I like to use a product called wash-away tacky. I believe that’s a proprietary name for a Floriani product, but almost all stabilizer companies have a similar product. It’s a mesh, wash-away stabilizer that has a very sticky side. You could also use a similar product that lets you iron your stabilizer to the napkin, if your napkins are heat-safe. They usually come in wash-away and tear-away types.

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Here’s a tip: hoop your wash-away tacky, then peel off the paper backing – don’t try to peel off the paper and then hoop the stabilizer! You’ll have a stuck-together mess.

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I like to use a small cutting mat to help align multiple items; see how this stabilizer is translucent? I can line up my hoop, then lay down the individual pieces. No need to hoop the napkins, this stabilizer is pretty sticky. You want to overlap some, but not so much that your napkins will be stitched together.

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Now for your design: I have software that let’s me duplicate and rotate and then save it as a single design, but most embroidery machines have this function too. Just duplicate and rotate your design, and space it out enough so you don’t stitch through multiple napkins.

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If your machine is very new, it may even have a fancy camera so you can see just where your design will be!

Press start and watch your machine go – 40 minutes later mine was done.

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Now pull up your napkin from the stabilizer and cut very carefully around the design; you can leave a bit of a border to be safe. You can now rise out the remaining stabilizer, or be lazy like I am and just toss them into next week’s wash and wait to get the extra out.

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A note on stabilizer: I chose a wash away for this project because I had a light design that was going on a fairly stable and thick fabric. If you have a very heavy design, or you have very lightweight fabric you may want to use a leave in stabilizer instead.

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And here we have it – four “new” napkins for next week’s barbecue!



Gift Ideas for the New Mom

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Embroidery designs from the Nautical Damask Collection by Embroidery Library

What’s the best gift for a new, busy Mother? Well when “just getting to wash your hair feels like a spa treatment” how about a beautiful, personalized hair turban? As most women know, hair turbans – as distinct from hats, wraps and other forms of head gear turbans – are generally used after washing the hair, but could be used before to keep it dry(ish) while bathing.

I filled an order for one last week, a gift for a new mother who recently had her first child. The giver wanted to make it as lavish as possible, so chose much larger embroidery designs and single letter monogram, with real shell button. As I was making one, I made another in the larger size to show the difference; this one would be better for those with longer and/or thicker hair. The smaller is suitable for those with very short to shoulder length hair.

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5×5″ designs with a 3.5″ single letter monogram (bottom product)

As mentioned, the giver wanted extravagantly large designs, and also chose to have both sides embroidered. The final cost of these hair turbans was in the $75 range. A more typical 2 inch tall single letter monogram, or 3 inch single floral design embroidered on this very nice 21 oz. cotton is included in the regular price of $32 for the small and $38 for the large. Of course, you can always upgrade yours!