Monday, November 11, 2019

Nothing to Do with Sewing (Reflections on My Life as a Veteran)

Just a warning.  This post has nothing to do with sewing.  I just thought for once I will post on my sewing blog something that has nothing to do with sewing!  I am sitting here this morning watching the snow come down and reflecting on my life. 

It has been an unexpected journey.  First, I never expected to live to the age of 78 and I never expected to be here in Michigan watching it snow.  I was born in Brunswick, Georgia and never saw snow until I was 18 or 19 years old.  I never really expected to leave Brunswick.  I expected my life would end there as it began there.  As a very shy girl who just graduated from high school, I never thought I would join the United States Air Force.  I had plans for college.  I planned to attend Georgia State College for Women.  I planned to room with my best friend from high school.  However, things don’t always go as planned.  That scholarship did not materialize.  What was I going to do?

I heard it was possible to get a college degree while serving in the Air Force.  I went to see a recruiter at the post office in Brunswick.  He told me that it was true one could get a college degree while in the Air Force.  In fact, he said the experience was “kind of like living in a college dorm”.  I was gullible enough to believe him!   I signed up and off I went to basic training.  My first realization that I had been duped came when I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base.  I assure you I was not treated like a college student!  To add insult to injury, I received a letter from my mother telling me my scholarship had finally come through.  Just my luck!  This was a little too late.  I had signed my life away for three years.  The commitment was made and I knew I had to make the best of it.   I moved forward and never looked back.

As it turned out, my decision to join the Air Force was probably the best decision I ever made.  My experience in the military showed me I was capable of far more than I knew.  I served four years in the Air Force and after a 17-year break in service, I served twenty years in the Michigan Air National Guard.  I retired as a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9).  I have many fond memories of my 24 years of service in the military. 

I also achieved my goal of graduating from college.  Some of my college credits were acquired while I was in the Air Force, some were acquired as a civilian and some were acquired while I was in the Michigan Air National Guard.  I had lots of encouragement along the way from my husband and children and from members of my military family.

I met my husband while in the Air Force stationed at Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.  We have been married for 58 years and have two wonderful daughters.  Our oldest, Loretta Smith, teaches school in Georgia and the other, Marcia Rush, now resides in heaven after a courageous battle with cancer. 

I am proud and honored to have served this country of ours for 24 years!  On this Veterans Day 2019 this is what in on my mind on this cold and snowy winter day in Michigan.

Judy Huhn

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Breaking My Sewer’s Slump

You are familiar with ballplayers being in a batting slump when they just can’t get a hit for several games.  A writer has writer’s block if he/she can’t find any words to put on paper.  I believe I have been experiencing something similar regarding my sewing.   I have been unable to focus on sewing for several months.   I sew but I don’t complete anything.   At the sewing retreat in September in Shipshewana, I made three pants but I still have not hemmed them.  Before that that I cut out four small cross-body bags.  I completed three, but the fourth is still unfinished.   I also cut out a fitting muslin for a new denim jacket pattern, but I did not finish that either.   Next, I purchased a new pattern for a purse and cut that out, but I have yet to sew a stitch on the bag. 

Although I had all these unfinished projects, I decided to cut out a long sleeve tee shirt.  I found some light blue knit fabric in my stash.  I cut out a tee top using McCall’s pattern 6964.  I have used this pattern for many tops so I knew it fit.  That eliminated the most difficult step in sewing anything!  Maybe that is what I needed.  I needed something with no problems to get me back on the road to successful sewing. 

Then I decided the plain blue tee top needed something to jazz it up a little.  It needed some pizazz.  I looked at the embroidery unit for my sewing machine.  It was just sitting there unused as it has been for a long time.   I decided to put it to use and embroider something on the front of the shirt.  I had already sewn the front to the back so I ripped out the seams to make it easier to handle in the embroidery hoop.  Then I looked for a design in my Pfaff sewing machine.  I wanted something simple and quick.  I wanted no problems with this project.  I chose a beautiful butterfly for the front of the shirt and a smaller side-view version of the same butterfly for the back shoulder of the shirt.  I had to retrain myself on how to use the embroidery portion of my sewing machine because I had not used it for such a long time.  After two days I had a butterfly on both the front and back pieces of my shirt. 

It was a simple process to sew the shoulder seams together again.  I remembered to cut pieces of stabilizer (interfacing) to sew in the shoulder seams to prevent them from sagging and stretching.   I don’t like the pattern piece for the neckband in this pattern, so I cut my own.   I turned to the book, Knits for Real People, by Susan Neall and Pati Palmer to jog my memory on how to do this.  Pages 79 – 81 provided instructions for making a neckband for a round neckline.    I measured the total front and back neckline on the pattern including the seam allowances and then took ¾ of that figure.  That gave me the total length of the neckband.  I measured the width of the neckband on another shirt and added the seam allowance on both sides.  I sewed the short end of the band together and then folded the band in half lengthwise.   I machine basted the band to the neckline to determine if I liked it first.  Then I sewed the folded band to the right side of the shirt and pressed the seam down.  Then I stitched just below the seam to hold the seam allowance down inside the shirt. 

After sewing the two side seams, I sewed the sleeves together and inserted them in the armscyes. My shirt was finished except for hemming the sleeves and the shirt.  I have been hemming shirts by serging the bottom edge, turning up the hem allowance and using a straight stitch to hold the hem in place.  I decided this time I would use my serger to sew a cover stitch hem.  Since I have not used the cover stitch in a very long time, I realized this was going to take a while.  I needed to read the instructions and practice this stitch before using it on my shirt.   I took some time to learn to thread the machine properly for the cover stitch and then practiced to make sure I had a good stitch.  Then I used the serger to hem the bottom of my shirt and the sleeves with a wide cover stitch.  Finally, my shirt was completed.  I had broken my sewer’s slump!  Pictures of the completed project are shown below:

 I can now sew again.  Maybe I can focus on sewing and completing some of those unfinished projects I have.  I actually started one today.  I turned up and pressed a hem in one of those pants I started in August at the sewing retreat.  My plan is to sew a blind hem in those tomorrow.

How are your sewing projects progressing?  Don’t give up if you encounter a problem.  Just keep trying until you overcome it!


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sociable Sewing     

Sewing can be a lonely, isolated activity, but only if you choose to make it that way.  You can choose to go it alone and sew in your sewing room with no input from anyone but you.  I see that choice as one that can be a little boring and has less potential for true creativity and enjoyment.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying you should never sew alone in your sewing room.  I am saying you may add to your productivity and creativity by socializing and occasionally sewing with other people who enjoy sewing!

Sociable groups of every kind have long been the basis of the American way of life.  However, these groups have been declining at least for the last 20 years or so.  We are beginning to see this happen even in sewing groups such as the American Sewing Guild.  Most chapters are experiencing a decline in membership.  The Lansing Clippers is working to not only keep the current members, but increase the number. 

The Lansing Clippers offer many opportunities to get involved with other motivated, talented, and inspired sewers who love to sew and are willing to share their knowledge and to learn from others.   There is an opportunity to learn techniques and to get inspired by attending each monthly meeting.   It is easy to get inspired by Show and Tell by our members.  Not only do they show items they made, but they usually share which pattern they used and where the fabric was purchased.  They will explain what problems were encountered, too.  You can’t get information like that while sitting alone in your sewing room!  You can also acquire sewing skills by attending classes that are offered occasionally by the chapter.  Don’t forget we have three neighborhood groups that provide opportunities for inspiration as well.  For details on these groups, check out our Neighborhood Group page on our website

Another great sociable sewing event is our sewing retreat.  The retreat this year was held again in Shipshewana, Indiana.  It gave those who attended an opportunity to totally concentrate on sewing for several days.  We didn’t have to stop to cook meals, do laundry, or clean the house.  We did stop occasionally to shop and eat!   We are looking forward already to going to retreat next year.  I hope you will join us!

By the way, are you going to the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Novi this year?  It looks like they will have more vendors than last year and lots of classes.  Check out their website,MI/ClassDescriptions.aspx to see the list of classes and to register.    Even if you don’t register for a class, you should go to see what the venders have to offer and to get inspired.  I advise you to take along a sewing friend.  Conversation will make the trip seem shorter and you will have more fun sharing ideas for sewing projects with a friend!

Keep sewing and be sociable with other sewing enthusiasts! 


Sunday, September 8, 2019

How to Miter the Corners of a Patch Pocket

At the last meeting of the Lansing Chapter American Sewing Guild meeting, Carrie K. gave a demonstration on how to miter the corners of a patch pocket.  I did not see the demo because I was giving a different demo at the same time.  I heard it was a really good demo and I wish I could have seen it.  Carrie said she used a method she saw demonstrated by Nancy Zieman years ago.  I decided to look through some of my Nancy Zieman books to try to find the instructions.  I found them in 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew.  The instructions are on page 27 – 28.  

Nancy used transparent tape to help sew the mitered corners on the patch pocket.  She used it to hold the fabric edges together and to provide a guide for the stitching line.  This is a really good technique to use to sew a professional patch pocket.  The instructions follow:
.     1.  Measure twice the seam width on both sides of the bottom corners (5/8” x 2 = 1 ¼”) and mark on the wrong side of the fabric with chalk or marking pen.  Place transparent tape on the wrong side of pocket between the two marks as shown in picture below.

2.     2.  Fold the corner to a point with right sides together.  Align the tape and the marks.  Stitch next to the tape being careful not to stitch through the tape.  Trim the seam to ¼ inch.  Turn the pocket to the outside and press.  Repeat this step for the second corner.

Nancy’s book gave instructions to finish the patch pocket.  After you miter the corners, continue as follows.

.        3.  Cut a light-weight fusible interfacing the width of the top hem allowance and fuse in place.

4.    Fold the top hem allowance down to the right side of the pocket and sew both side seam allowances.  Trim the side seam allowances in the hem and turn right side out and press.

      5  .  To sew the pocket to the garment, do not use pins.  Instead, cut ¼” strips of Wonder Under or some other brand of fusible web strips to hold the pocket in place while stitching.  Place the strips on the wrong side of the pocket along both side edges and the bottom edge.  Press with iron onto the garment to fuse in place.   Edge stitch the side and bottom edges of pocket.

Nancy Zieman suggested using a blind stitch foot to sew around the outside edges of the pocket to attach it to the garment.  I had never used the blind stitch foot for this purpose, so I decided to try it.  It worked quite well.  You can edge stitch close to the side and bottom edges of the pocket by aligning the edge of the pocket so the red wheel on the blind stitch foot passes just to the right of the pocket edge.   See the picture below.

This was the first time I tried this method of making a patch pocket.  It found it is an easy method to make a professional patch pocket on the first attempt. 

The book, 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew, is a great resource for beginner sewers.  It also has some great tips to improve and speed up sewing.  You could use it to improve sewing techniques you may have done for years, but perhaps may not have sewn them as efficiently as possible. 

I hope your sewing is going well.  Don’t forget to occasionally look through some of the sewing books you have to get inspired with ideas for new projects or ways to improve your sewing techniques.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Small Crossover Bag          August 16,  2019

It is extremely difficult to find a pattern that is just perfect for you.  There always seems to be something missing or a feature included that is not wanted.  That is why we need to examine a pattern and decide which features we want to keep and which ones we want to delete.  That was the process I recently encountered when I decided to make a small crossover bag to hold cash, credit cards, I
identification, and phone.

I had an instruction sheet for a simple small crossover bag that was compliments of Fields Fabric from several years ago.   The small bag (approximately 7”x 8”) was made from three pieces of color coordinated fabric.  The strap was attached to swivel hoops that clipped onto D rings.  The D rings were attached to small fabric loops sewn to the top of the bag.   The fold-over flap of the bag closed with a magnetic bag closure.  The bag was bound around all outside edges with bias tape made from one of the coordinated fabrics.  The bag appeared to be quick to make and could accommodate everything I needed to take with me for a quick trip to the grocery store or an all day trip to a sewing expo. 

After scrutinizing the instructions, I decided to make a bag very similar to the pattern and then I would make another one and add or delete features that might work better for me.  I had three pieces of color- coordinated fabric in my stash.  I made a couple of small changes to the first bag I made.  Instead of using a magnetic closure, I used a snap from and I did not use the D rings to attached the swivel hoops.  I just attached the swivel hooks directly to the fabric loops on the top of the bag.  A picture of my first bag made with the decorator fabric is shown below:

After finishing the first bag, I knew what changes I wanted to make to the next bag.  The first change I made was the size.  It needed to be approximately 1½“ wider for a larger phone to fit.  That was an easy change.   I also wanted to use denim fabric for the bag.  I wasn’t sure if bias tape made from denim would work to finish the outside edges of the bag.  I thought it might make the edges of the bag too thick to sew through.  I decided I would sew the bag right sides together and leave an opening to turn the bag.  I wasn’t sure this would work either, but I was willing to try.   It worked, but it required a lot of steam pressing after the bag was turned.  I liked the snap I used on the first purse, so I used the same for the denim bag.   I made small individual pockets for my credit cards and identification (drivers license).   I embroidered my initials on the flap that covers the inside of the purse.  Instead of the square corners on the flap of the first bag, I rounded the corners on the flap of denim bag.  Pictures of the denim bag are shown below.

 I decided to make another denim bag with bias tape around the outside edges instead of sewing the right sides together and turning it.  The denim was too thick to use as a bias binding, so I used the decorator fabric I used for the cover of the bag.  I rounded the bottom corners of the bag as well as the lower edges of the flap.  Pictures of this bag are shown below.

If you are interested in making one of these bags, please let me know.  I am thinking of posting the instructions on my website.  You can contact me at 

I hope you are having fun with your summer sewing projects!


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hanging Garment Bag Pattern Errors

I recently decided to make a hanging garment bag.  My husband and I travel to Indiana frequently and like to leave some of our clothes on hangers instead of putting them in the suitcase.  The clothes get less wrinkles that way.  I had seen Cindy Taylor Oates’ pattern booklet, Trendy Totes & Carryalls.  The booklet includes a pattern for a hanging garment bag as well as one for a laundry bag, crossbody bag, weekender bag, smaller bag, and cosmetic bag.  I decided to purchase the booklet and make the garment bag.  The first thing I noticed was a pink insertion slip with 2 corrections to the weekender bag.  Those corrections did not affect me because I planned to make the garment bag. 

When I read the instructions for cutting the garment bag, I was sure there was an error in this pattern, too.  On page 17 the instructions read to cut two rectangles 21” x 36 ½” for the upper bag.  It then said to cut one of the pieces in half lengthwise.  It was followed by instructions to add a 2” x 36 ½” strip to both pieces and then insert a zipper between the strips.  This would become the front of the bag.  It was obvious to me that if two rectangles were cut the same size, one for the front and one for the back, and then one of those pieces were split up the center and two (2) 2” strips and a zipper were added to the width of those pieces, the front and back of the garment bag would no longer be the same width!  My gut instinct told me this would cause a problem when inserting a gusset between the front and back piece.  However, I rarely listen to my gut when working with a pattern.  I assume the pattern is correct and you know what “assume” does for us.  It makes a “donkey” out of you and me.  Even though I knew the instructions were incorrect, I continued to follow them.

The instructions for cutting the second fabric called for two (2) rectangles 7 1/2” x 21” for the lower bag.  Those instructions did not take into consideration the extra width added to the front by the two (2) 2” wide strips and the zipper, so of course, the lower back portion of the bag and strip above it would not attach properly to the top of the front and back piece.  This was mistake number 2.

The next instruction was for making the loop for the bottom of the bag.  The loop would be attached to the bottom of the back piece so it could be pulled up to and over the hanger.  The problem with this instruction was the gusset had already been sewn to the back piece.  Now I had to rip the gusset from the lower back piece to insert the loop and then resew it.  This made me wonder if anyone tested this pattern before it was printed and offered for sale to the public. 

The next instruction was to attach the gusset to the front of the bag.  Although I knew this task would be impossible because of the added width of the front piece, I pinned the front to the gusset anyway and, of course, it did not fit!  I ripped the gusset from the back piece and added a strip down the middle of the back to make it the same width as the front piece.  I also had to add a strip the same width to both the lower part of the bag and the strip that is attached above the lower part of the bag.  Then I cut and added an extra length to the gusset.  It was fortunate for me that I had enough extra fabric to make those additions to the back piece, the lower back piece, the strip above the lower back, and the gusset. 

Pictures of my finished hanging garment bag are shown below.

 What did I learn from making this hanging garment bag?  Trust your gut!  Don’t just assume all patterns have been tested!  This pattern booklet, Trendy Totes & Carryalls, has six patterns in it.  The booklet had an insert advising of two errors in the weekender bag and I found three errors in the hanging garment bag.  It makes me wonder if there are errors in the other four bags.  Who knows?  I may just be crazy enough to test them myself.  I did advise Cindy Taylor Oates of the mistakes by emails when I discovered each of them.  She responded to my email about the mistake in the width of the front piece causing a problem with attaching the gusset.  She said she would “check it out”.  She did not respond to my second email about the instruction for adding the loop after the gusset was already attached to the back piece.  Maybe that means she has no plans to reprint this booklet and doesn’t care about the errors.  She has an impressive array of patterns out and I would hope she would care enough about her customers to want to make sure the patterns are correct.  She also has a booklet, Duffle Bags with patterns for three sizes of duffle bags and two styles.  These look interesting, so I may sew some of them. 

Please continue to sew and try new patterns.  Just trust your gut and watch for errors!  


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Sewing Blip or Sewing Disaster?

Have you experienced a “sewing blip”?  In case you are not familiar with that term, I will explain.  A sewing blip is different from a sewing disaster.  A sewing disaster is a project that you started and it just did not work.  No matter how much you tried, the project did not come together successfully.  So, it ended up in the trash!  A sewing blip is a project that was headed towards becoming a sewing disaster, but you managed to rescue it just before it was thrown in the trash.  It might not be exactly what you originally planned it to be, but it is a finished, useful project.

If you have never experienced either, then you probably don’t sew much.   Most avid sewers have experienced both.  I recently dealt with two projects that caused me some stress.  One is finished and the other is waiting to be ripped apart so it can go from a potential disaster to possibly a blip.

The first blip was a project that started as an effort on my part to get a friend interested in sewing clothes for herself.  She prefers to make quilts instead of clothes.  She knits and does needlepoint.   However, she has no interest in making clothes for herself.  I thought if I could offer my assistance with fitting a pattern and helping her sew an item, she would love making clothes as much as I do.  I learned a lesson from this experience.  Each of us is different.  We can have different areas of interests and still be friends.

My friend decided (with my constant urging) to sew a sweatshirt for herself.  She wanted to use fabric from her stash.  She had a piece of navy fleece and another piece of a grey, navy and red fleece print which was designed to have lines which needed to be matched in a garment.    We chose Vogue pattern V9244 and started the fitting process for the hooded sweatshirt.   While we were pin-fitting the pattern, I learned she did not like the style of the sweatshirt.  It flared out at the hipline and was longer at the sides and back.  With encouragement and help from another friend, we altered the pattern to take out the flare at the hips and shortened the hemline at the sides.  The pattern also had lined pockets that were part of the side front piece.  The front closed using buttons and buttonholes.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to make buttonholes.

The garment was cut and the front and side-front pieces were pinned together.  We noticed the print stripes did not match at the correct points between the two pieces.  We did not have enough of the grey print fabric to recut the pieces and there wasn’t enough navy blue to replace the pieces either.  Are you beginning to see a sewing disaster develop here?   I was able to get more of the navy fleece, so I knew this project could be saved.  However, my friend now had even less interest in the project than she did at the beginning.  I knew who was to blame.  Me!  There were two main reasons this project failed.   The first is I pushed her into sewing something she did not really want to sew.  The second was I overwhelmed her with that pattern.  I should have waited until we could find a simple sweatshirt with a zipper. 

Although my friend said she was done with the sweatshirt, I refused to throw it away.  Instead I placed it in a closet for several months.  Recently, I found the project and decided to try to make a wearable sweatshirt for my friend.  I replaced the side-front pieces with solid navy pieces.   No matching of lines was necessary.  I also made front pockets from the navy fleece.  When I pinned the side-front to the back, I noticed the back was too long to  attach to the side-front.  I am sure that happened when we altered the pattern to get rid of the flare at the side.  So, I cut off enough at the side of the back and gradually sloped the hem to be able to sew the back to the side-front.  A picture of the finished shirt and the pattern envelope are shown below.

This could have been a sewing disaster, but instead it turned into a sewing blip.  It did not turn out as planned but at least my friend got a sweatshirt out of the ordeal and hopefully, I retained her friendship!

I hope your sewing experiences are going well with no blips or disasters!