Does your mindset change to match your sewing?

luncheon napkins and coasters 2I really enjoy sewing, all aspects of it: garments, quilting, embroidery, heirloom, couture – anything sewing related!

I started a garment project today, for the first time in a long while, and I realized my mindset was completely different – almost meditative. I was cutting out an underlining, which will get marked and then used like a pattern piece to cut out the fashion fabric, and it seems like parts of my hands are already feeling the basting thread and making their own notes of where hand stitches are going to go.

I don’t get this way with other sewing; maybe because it’s usually quick sewing. I think I’m experiencing is what’s called flow; being in a mental groove and everything else seems to disappear. But with garments, even when I don’t go full-on couture, I seem to enter this altered mental state.

Maybe because I had such a pleasant experience learning garment sewing from the wonderful and lovely Susan Khalje; she teaches couture technique to small groups of sewing enthusiasts in multi-day classes all over the world. Susan is a very calm and generous teacher; instead of telling you that you can’t do something because it’s “advanced” or not for beginners or too hard, she simply teaches you how to do it, it’s never a big deal. I liken it to those old maps that used to say on the edges of the unknown “beware, here there be monsters…” Susan just says, Oh, a monster? Here’s how you deal with monsters – doesn’t even blink.

Couture sewing is also a process; you trace out your pattern, make a muslin, alter the muslin, try the muslin on again; then you look at your fabric, get to know and understand your fabric. Then you think about your garment: does it need underlinings, linings, what reinforcements, interfacings, what finishes and other treatments will you use? Then you lay out your underlining if you have one, mark it; next you decide how your pattern is going to be laid out on your fabric; then you cut out your fashion fabric, then your lining, then you mark the lining and re-mark the fashion fabric/ underlining, then there’s basting, another fitting, then construction, maybe another fitting to be certain, then finishing… yes, couture garments take a while to construct!

But not every garment gets full-on couture, sometimes just demi-couture as I call it. Mostly though I think it’s the process, the mindset: step – pause. Step – pause. Step – pause. Right now, I’m pausing; I placed all the pattern pieces on my underling (just a few as it’s an a-line skirt) and stepped away; when I go back I’ll double check that all the pieces are there, then I’ll cut them out. After that, I’ll pause again, probably re-read (or rather quintuple-read) the directions, re-count the pieces. Then I’ll mark those pieces, then pause again, maybe re-admire my fashion fabric (I’ve already determined that the pattern is repeating and omni-directional. I could try to pattern match at the seams, but I don’t have lots of yardage, so I won’t worry about it.)

I like this mindset, and I’d like to bring it to more of my sewing. Not always, because sometimes we just need to get those coasters embroidered for a gift in a hurry! But some of my frustration with other sewing seems to come from missed steps, missed opportunities, and slowing down will help. That and, it’s just a pleasant feeling, being in the flow.

When Projects Are Disappointing

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You may remember this fabric from a post last year, on keeping organized. Well I finally (finally!) got around to making it this past December. Kinda. I started it before we went on a trip, then we came back rather ill, and I was laid up the last two weeks of December and didn’t get that poor little tote finished.

Just all kind-of ugly going on….

Well, I tried to finish it last week. I mean I really tried. Kudos to Sunny, he was trooper and stitched through all those layers as best he could, but after straining my neck and shoulders wrangling it, breaking several needles (at least three) and finding the last few steps of instructions to be wanting, I decided this was a bad project. I’m going to finish it; I’ll complete the binding by hand when I have time in the next couple of days, but I am done.

These layers were horribly thick; I had trouble maintaining a ¼ inch seam allowance, let alone getting the binding to cover the edges. There were seemingly unneeded steps and excess notions, turning the curved corners wasn’t that hot, and frankly, I don’t think there could be a more difficult way to construct this bag. Was it pilot error? No doubt, I’ve never done anything like this before. Was a it a bad pattern? That is up for debate, but is the theory I’m going with for now.

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Since I only meant it as a garden tote, it doesn’t need to be pretty, let alone perfect. I scrapped the “helper handles” and tied them off in knots on the ends to finish it. If I hadn’t desperately needed a new garden tote I would have chucked the whole thing. But I doubt I’ll be making this pattern again.

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What’s up with the Dye?

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a relaxing, enjoyable holiday. Are you ready to get back to it?

My year starts off with a question; why would dye start to leach after years being of washed? Is it a green thing? A denim thing? If you have an answer, I’d love to hear it!

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What happened is this: I made this apron in January of last – no, 2017 – three years ago. At the time, I washed the denim in hottest water not once, not twice but three times to get out the shrinky-dinks as well as any excess dye. I have washed this apron, always with other towels, always on hottest water and never had a problem – until last month. I washed it with a batch of dark and red towels, so I didn’t notice anything, except the chicken – see how he’s no longer white? The next time I washed it in December, there were a couple of white towels in the load, and they are definitely no longer white!

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Well, not a big deal, the towels that are no longer white were getting a little agèd, and now I have an excuse to spruce up the powder room with new towels and new embroidery! (pictures to follow…)

What’s next in your sewing queue?

How Was Your National Sewing Month?

I attended a few sewing seminars at local stores; saw lots of holiday sewing inspiration; got to see – and play with! – some of the new machines, as well as other new products; and got a fun new upgrade for my new Solaris machine, which includes embroidery couching!

Embroidery Couched Butteryfly-1
I used a contrasting thread so you can see how the yarn is attached to the fabric.

But mostly with this post I want to thank my local sewing stores, who put on these wonderful seminars and classes for their customers – for free! I don’t get anything from these stores, except excellent customer service and wonderful support.

Humble Sewing Center in Humble, Tx

Quilter’s Emporium in Stafford, Tx

Sew Much Fabric in Sugar Land, Tx

And a new store I found for you Bernina sewers in Houston,

Sew Special Quilts in Katy, Tx

Support your local sewing shops, not just buy purchasing but attending classes and seminars.

And next month is Quilt Show in Houston – don’t forget to stop by your local shop’s booth while you’re there. Not a quilter you say? It’s not just for quilters! If you have a passion for any of the fiber arts, there’s something there for you too! Garment fabrics, machines, accessories, hand embroidery, hand-dyed fabrics, yarns, laces ribbons – just go down and be inspired!

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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Do Your Machines Play Nicely Together?

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Do all your machines play nicely together? I heard this phrase from Evy Hawkins of Bit of Stitch. I was watching her in a Sashiko machine video on Sew at Home Classes, and she described her use of multiple machines in a project as her “machines playing nicely together.” I thought that was a fun way to remember that we often have more than one machine in our sewing room, and we don’t have to limit ourselves to one machine or technique for each project.

I’m lucky enough to have a Sashiko machine; it only does one stitch but it’s a fun stitch you can use in a variety of ways. You can use it for quilting of course, but also for applying binding and other decorative tasks.

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I found this fun citrus print from a favorite shop when I visit back home, Sew This! in Abita Springs. As soon as I saw it I knew it’d make great place mats and napkins.

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I quilted the place mats with the Sashiko, and then used it to apply the binding. How fun is that tiny pick stitch? The body of the mat is done with a stitch length of 2mm and a space of 5mm, and the binding is done with a stitch of 5mm and a space of 2mm.

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It’s almost more fun choosing the threads and finish for a project!

I also have a very nice serger, and it makes quick work of napkins with a variety of decorative stitches. In this project I used a three-thread wide stitch with 12-wt thread in the upper and lower loopers.

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Sometimes when you serge around a curve, the stitching is a little uneven


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Just a wiggle of the threads and a quick press later and you have flat, even stitches
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To finish, run of the edge, tie a knot and weave the tail into the back threads
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All layered and lined up for quilting

How did I come up with the shape for my place mats? I got the idea from Sew 4, a website that has lots of great home décor projects and ideas. The original project is here, but something wasn’t quite to my taste with the trapezoids.

Then I thought I’d like it a lot better with rounded corners, so out came the trusty lid from my faux malachite box.

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And I rounded the corners of the napkins too.

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Hmm, maybe I don’t like this binding as much as I thought
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Making new binding – I love my AccuQuilt® for cutting binding if nothing else!


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I cut my bias binding a bit too small, and probably should have trimmed down the seam allowance, but I did a pretty good job and it turned out OK. In one small area I didn’t catch the under-lap, but a few fell stitches with a needle fixed it fine.

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This shape fits much more nicely than traditional rectangular mats

A little while later – and lots of fun stitching! – and I had a lovely new set of place mats and napkins.

Making It Up as You Go

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Shopping the stash… always fun!

… or Making your In-Laws Look Better.

My sister-in-law dropped by for a nice visit last week; we were happy to spend time with her. She was kind enough to bring us a photo she found while cleaning out – it’s of my husband’s parents from oh-so-long ago. There’s no date on the photo, but my husband figures he was five years or younger.

Anyway, he wanted to frame it, so I started looking at 11 x 14 frames. After a bit of searching and not finding anything appealing, I got smart (maybe too smart) and thought, hey, I can make one with fabric… and after two hours this morning I have a framed photo.

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Graph paper has always been my favorite – and so convenient for sewing

I started by measuring the photo, then deciding how much overlap I wanted for the frame, then how wide I wanted the frame to be. It’s really more of a matting technique at this point, so you could use this as a mat inside of a regular picture frame too, just leave off the final backing.

Next I cut down a piece of Peltex® to the dimensions I settled on; after that I fused the fabric I was using to the Peltex frame and trimmed it to fit. I did leave a ½ inch allowance so I could wrap it around the frame; ½ inch was a bit small to work with, you may want to consider leaving a bit more of an edge. I used my clapper to help set the fabric around the backside.

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Since the fabric I chose was a silk dupioni, I knew it was going to shed and I didn’t want to spend time cleaning up threads that might stick out later on, so I used a basting spray, stuck down a piece of muslin, then stitched around the inner and outer edges.

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I used a decorative stitch on the inside, and simply top-stitched the outside edge. Once it was all stitched in place, I clipped away the excess (your appliqué scissors will work better here.)

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Now to center the photo in the frame – and discover the small but repairable mistake I made. When I initially cut down the frame, I forgot to cut the width to size – and didn’t either check my final measurements before proceeding to the next step. So instead of a lovely one-inch overlap, I got free-hang edges of photo! Ah well, it just fits inside the frame and with archival tape I was able to affix it into place.

To enclose the whole thing, I used plain muslin again, backed with DécorBond® for a bit of stability. I decided to just sew around the whole edge, but if you think you’d like to reuse your frame, only sew down the sides and bottom, leaving the top edge open – you’ll probably want to fold it over and finish it with a straight stitch to make it nice.

I then topstitched around the whole frame again, and trimmed down the excess fabric. I also sewed in a strip of fabric for hanging, you can do that too or add one by hand later, how ever you prefer. Just to make sure the photo didn’t move in the frame, I edge-stitched right along the two sides, can’t even tell it’s there.

And now, here are my in-laws – don’t they look better?

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What’s New

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Embroidery on Denim

The new year is well under way – spring is just around the corner! – and there are some exciting changes here at Embroidery and Gifts. Over the past year I have found that the majority of my clients are fellow sewers: home sewers, quilters, garment makers – all kinds of sewers! And one thing they all have in common is the need for specialty embellishments. Perhaps they don’t have an embroidery machine, or want custom quilt labels, or simply don’t have time or equipment for a new technique.

That’s where I come in! Whatever project you are working on, don’t feel limited by time or your ability – I can help you create something special! Need a matching handbag for your new cocktail dress? Want a supply of your own quilt labels? Would you like to embroider the lining for your new jacket but don’t have a large embroidery hoop? Have a wedding coming up but don’t have time to personalize the towel sets? Let me do it for you!

In addition to embellishment services, I will be posting tips and featuring projects on this blog each month to show that every sewing project can be made truly unique and special.

Latest Fabrics

New satins are in for Holiday Handbags – ivory, black, wine and red! Also, a new color of frame to choose from, rose gold!


Just in from Hong Kong and limited – rose gold clutch frames! New box-style handbag also now available for the Holidays!