Changes in the Sewing Room…

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Wow, it’s April already! Happy Spring – I hope you’ve all got bright, fun new projects to work on. I kept busy in March between spring cleaning, a serger demonstration for my local sewing club, and – getting a new machine!

I have to say, at the beginning of March I was not quite planning on that! Meet Sunny, my Baby Lock Solaris (yes, a rather obvious name but I’m not imaginative.) It was and was not a spur of the moment purchase; how’s that? I’ve been looking at a new top of the line machine for a little over a year now, but the Solaris was not on my radar. I won’t go into it here but suffice it to say, after several serendipitous events at my local dealer I decided to get the Solaris.

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How is Sunny? Well, he’s big, and complex; I took a new owner’s class after getting him, and he can do a lot. But in two short weeks I’ve only made two things; I finished a shirt for my husband and made myself some needle pads – I’ll post about those soon. Sadly I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to really try out all the wonderful things he can do (as soon as my house guests are gone I’ll get to delve more deeply!)

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Poor Sunny has to live on the foot rest until the new table with a bigger lift comes in!

What to Do with Leftovers

What do you do with your leftovers and scraps? Generally, if I have enough left over for another project I hold onto them; but if it’s not enough or I don’t want to do another project with that fabric I cut it down into quilt blocks (if they’re cotton) or I just toss them.

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I recently made myself this lovely, rather luxurious robe from a terry velour, here from Vogue Fabrics, in this pattern from Butterick. There was a bit left over, not enough for anything much, but I wanted to play with some decorative threads I recently purchased for my serger – pearl crown rayon and décor 6 from Uncommon Thread. They were just enough though to make some nice face cloths for myself, and I got to play with fun thread!

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I used a three thread overlock narrow stitch, with pearl crown or décor 6 in both loopers, and a white polyester serger thread in the needle.

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What’s on the pockets? I tried out my Sashiko machine just to see what it would do on terry – turns out not much. It’s pretty fluffy fabric, so the Sashiko stitches get lost. But, that’s why we try out new things, to see what else we can do, what we can create next. What are your sewing plans for Spring?

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A tatami-style stitch with a topper helps keep the velour down and improves the stitch out

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!

Just a Quick Holiday Post

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I don’t do much personal sewing after Thanksgiving and most of my embroidery orders are complete by the first week of December, but I wanted to share a recent gift that was also a quick project.

This cute wristlet/ cosmetic bag is the Little Glam Bag from Pink Sand Beach Designs; they have a wonderful collection of bag and purse patterns, all made to use fat quarters – which means you can use up the scraps from your stash. You can buy patterns direct, or even from your local quilt shop.

The recipient of this bag is a gregarious older woman who loves red and bling, so I took the time to have a little fun with the embroidery and rhinestones. All told the project took me two and a half hours, from cutting to last stitch. If you’re just making the bag, it’ll take you less than an hour.

I chose a large monogram so it would stand out against the patterned fabric, but traditional satin-stitching doesn’t work well with large letters; I used a textured design instead. If you have embroidery software or a top-of-the-line machine it can probably do this too. Consider it next time you have over-sized lettering.

And don’t forget the decorative stitches on your sewing machine, almost all of them have at least a few these days. People often ask “but what would I use them for?” here’s a perfect example! I used a “hand quilt stitch” for the topstitching along the zipper, and a repeated fan shape to construct the strap – that’s just two places you can use them!

I hope you’ve all had a fun a productive 2018 and will have many more projects in the coming year!

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Crimes Against Couture?

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Can you tell there are serged seams?

For those who are not familiar, couture sewing has some expected (or antiquated) techniques and parameters: multiple muslins and fittings, generous seam allowances, using the stitching line as opposed to the cutting line, and a lot of hand sewing. A LOT of hand sewing…. This makes couture sewing unappealing to many modern sewers; no short cuts, no new techniques, and definitely no sergers.

But I really enjoy couture sewing, there’s something almost meditative about the process. And of course, not every garment has to be full on couture all the time. Some of my fellow Fashionista’s and I do what we call “demi-couture”: we use the techniques that we find most enjoyable, give the best finish or are the most practical – and couture sewing is nothing if not practical.

So what to do when your designer bouclé remnant leaves you with scant 5/8-inch seam allowances (and I mean scant as in more like 3/8-inch) and the edges are raveling faster than you can sew them? You bust out the serger. Yup, there are serged edges in my mostly couture a-line skirt. I stabilized not only the edges of my pattern pieces with the serger, I cleaned up the hem as well. This to me is not much different than whip-stitching the entire edge to stabilize it; I just did it by machine instead of by hand.

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Hot off the serger – the edge is now being held securely

The most fervent adherents will claim that Madame C is now rolling over in her grave, but I think if she had a serger she’d’ve used it if she needed to. Because you see, couture also teaches us to do what is needed when it’s needed. For instance, I wound up with a strange hole in one of my side seams; it looks like a little notch was cut out of the hem allowance – I’ll blame it on a gremlin. But my otherwise nice and even 2-inch hem has a very shallow spot; what to do?

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I took a scrap of organza and zig-zagged it to the wrong side of the hem, then folded it over and zig-zagged it down. I now have a lovely stabilized edge to catch-stitch down with the rest of the hem. Won’t it show? It shouldn’t, especially with the lining in place. Only someone being nosy would see it, and if someone is that nosy then I have way more to worry about than them seeing my little organza bandage….

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All Patched!
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A silk lining is lovely and hides all the stitching

Save the Wool! (Or, you may not have ruined it yet!)

I’m in the midst of finishing my winter wardrobe projects; I finished several sweaters and fall-colored tees last month, and this month I’m working on skirts – I finished the first one last week. This week I’m working on my woollies: one designer cashmere, one designer bouclé, one acrylic/ wool blend, and one that’s a cotton/ acrylic/ viscose.

Everything washed fine, except the designer bouclé: it’s a wool blend, but it shrank much more than I thought it would (I suspect it was actually a cotton fiber in one of the yarns that shrank the most.) I had washed the two wools on my machine’s hand wash/ washable wool cycle, and hung both to dry. The cashmere lost barely a half inch width wise and nothing lengthwise, but the bouclé went from a barely-enough-for-an a-line skirt 56” wide and one yard long including the frayed edges, to 53 ½” wide and 28” long… yikes! While I was laying out my organza underlining yesterday morning, I realized my mistake.

But then I remembered that wool stretches (the reason for the organza underlining to begin with!) So I sent the piece back through a rinse and spin cycle with liquid fabric softener (I’ve heard hair conditioner works too) and while wet I stretched it gently but firmly across my shower’s grab bar. I was able to get it stretched to a decent 59” wide and 36” long, not including the frayed edges. I weighted it with trouser hangers across the bottom and left it like this to dry.

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The final measurements? After being hung to dry for twelve hours, and left to completely dry for another twelve it is now 56 ½” wide, by 35” long, not including the frayed edges. And now I can finish making my skirt…

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!