Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Oldest UFO

I just completed my oldest UFO!  For those of you who don’t sew, UFO is the term we use for our unfinished objects (sewing projects).  Most sewists have at least one if not more.  My projects become UFOs if I get bored with them or run into a problem that appears to be unsolvable or the project requires a lot of careful ripping of stitches.

The UFO I just finished is a coat I started many years ago after a fabric shopping trip in Canada.  I purchased a beautiful piece of light pink wool fabric and I let it “age” in my sewing stash for many years while I decided what to make with it.  Finally, I decided it was time to actually cut the fabric and make a coat.  I took all the pieces and other supplies with me to a sewing retreat at Pleasant Lake, Michigan.   I also took my serger so I could finish the seams as I sewed them.  I had some problems with my serger, so I rethreaded it and grabbed a scrap of leftover fabric to test the stitches.  After I got the serger back on track with a decent stitch, I reached for the front facing to attach to the coat only to find it was missing.  After moving everything on my table and looking on the floor, I realized the fabric scrap I used to test the serger was not a scrap at all.  It was the front facing for my coat!  There was no way to obtain more fabric.  I salvaged the bottom 2/3 of each front facing and found a small scrap to attach to each to complete them.  The rest of the coat went together without a problem.  I decided to wait until I got home to make the buttonholes.

After I got home I realized I there could be a problem trying to make machine buttonholes on the coat because of the thickness of the fabric. So I avoided the problem by letting the coat hang in my closet and become my oldest UFO.  Occasionally, I would take the coat out and look at it.  I even bought some beautiful buttons for it, but for many years it remained a UFO.    

In October of this year, I decided I was going to finish that coat regardless of what it took!  I looked for my buttons, but I could find only two.  I went to Fabrications in Richland and purchased four buttons that would work for the coat.  Now I was ready for the next step.  I had to make those buttonholes if I was ever going to finish the coat.  It was late November when I tried the first buttonhole.  I started with the one at the top and opted for a lengthwise buttonhole to try to avoid the problem of the buttonhole foot getting hung up on the front edge of the coat.  Unfortunately, it got hung up on the neckline of the coat, so I had some ripping to do.  It was not easy to rip the stitches in this fabric, but I got all of the stitches out.  I gave some thought to making loops for the buttons instead of buttonholes.  I quickly realized I would need to rip out the top stitching down the front of the coat as well as the stitching that held the facing to the front of the coat.  I knew I was not going there!

My options were to make bound buttonholes or let the coat beat me and simply throw it away.  I chose the first option because I do not like to waste money or energy.  I knew what it takes to make bound buttonholes after a coat is already sewn together because I just did that with my “boo boo” coat.   I know history repeats itself but I did not expect it this soon.  I did not have any fabric to make the lips of the bound buttonholes, so I purchased a bright pink to contrast with the light pink coat fabric.  After I got past the top buttonhole, the rest were a little easier to make. 

You may be wondering just how long ago I started this coat.  I asked Joan Harris, who was the historian for our sewing guild chapter for many years, if she knew when we took that trip to Canada.   She searched her records and found we went to Canada in August of 2000.  So, I purchased the fabric 17 years ago, but I did not start the coat for a few years after that.  My best guess is I started this coat about 10 -12 years ago.

My advice to you is not to wait that long to cut any fabric you buy.  I have discovered the longer you keep your fabric in your stash, the uglier it gets and the more difficult it is to handle!  Have fun sewing.


Monday, November 20, 2017

My Boo-boo Coat  
I finally finished the coat I started at the August Lansing Clippers’ Sewing Retreat.  I had to force myself to keep at it until it was done!  As I said in my September 4th post, the coat was a disaster because it did not fit.  I knew if I wanted to rescue it, I would need to do a lot of alterations.  I loved the fabric and I invested a fair amount of money when I purchased it.  So, I worked on the alterations the last two months doing a little at a time.

There were so many boo-boos it was hard to decide where to start.  I knew I had to fix the shoulders first because they were huge.  I ripped the shoulder seams out and added a large dart in both fronts at the center of each shoulder seam.  Then I inserted a large dart in the back at the center of each shoulder seam.  I made sure the front and back darts met at the shoulder line.  The fit was better, but the shoulders were still a little too big.

The next alteration required me to rip out the sleeves.  There was just too much fabric in the coat around the armscye area in the front and back.  Although I knew it was risky, I trimmed fabric off both the front and back armscye.  That made the shoulders narrower as well as got rid of some of the extra fabric around the armscyes. 

Then I trimmed fabric off the sleeve seams because the sleeves were too large.  I had to increase the seam allowance of the side seams of the coat fronts and back under the arm.  The next step was to sew the sleeves back into the coat.  I held my breath.  Would the sleeves fit in the armscye after all the alterations?  Yes, they did fit!

The lining was next on my list of alterations.  I had not sewn the lining, so at least I would not be ripping out seams.   I assumed I would be making the exact same changes to the lining pieces as I made to the coat, so I kept a detailed list of all the alterations as I made them on the coat.  I had not sewn the lining together yet, so I was able to lay each piece on the corresponding piece of the coat.  Much to my surprise, the pieces matched!  There were no alterations needed on the lining.  Then a light bulb suddenly went turned on in my head.  Now I understood what was wrong with the coat.  I think I cut the wrong size coat for me and then cut the correct size lining.  No wonder the coat was too large for me even though I have used this pattern for 20 years.   I have most of the sizes traced on pattern paper because I have helped others of varying sizes make this coat and I have samples sewn for others to use to determine their size.  Now I am ready to throw away all sizes of the pattern except mine, so I will not repeat this mistake just in case I decide to use this pattern again!

After attaching the lining, I proceeded to make the buttonholes and sew on the buttons.  More boo-boos!  I planned to sew buttonholes using the buttonhole foot on my Pfaff machine.  I knew from experience I would have problems if I tried to make horizon buttonholes.  The foot always gets hung up on the second leg of the buttonhole on the front edge of a coat or jacket if I use heavy fabric.  I decided to avoid that problem by making vertical buttonholes instead.  That caused another boo-boo!  The buttonhole foot got hung up on the neckline when the second leg of the buttonhole was being sewn.  I was forced to rip out that partial buttonhole.  I did not want to do any more ripping.  I decided to do bound buttonholes instead.  This was not easy because the lining was attached.

Not only was it difficult to manipulate the fabric with the lining attached, but it was difficult making the buttonholes using the heavy coat fabric to make them.  I should have used a lighter fabric in a solid green color for the patch to make the lips of the buttonholes, but of course I did not do that.  Everything went okay until I did the opening of the third buttonhole on the facing side.  I managed to sew the square of interfacing on the inside of the facing instead of the outside.  I failed to notice that until I cut the slit into the facing which caused another boo-boo!  I did some ripping and then some very careful sewing around the slit.  I finally completed all four buttonholes.  These buttonholes are far from perfect, but at least the coat is wearable.

I learned a lot of lessons while making this coat.  The two most important lessons are:
1.            1.  Always make sure you cut the correct size when you make anything!
2.                 2.     If you want to make bound buttonholes, make them before the coat is sewn together and especially before the lining is attached!

Happy sewing!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making a Classic Shirt with Bill Voetberg    

I have been quiet on my blog lately for one simple reason.  Probably like most of you, I have been extremely busy!  One of my projects was making items to contribute to a church bazaar in Indiana.  My daughter, Marcia Rush, passed away last year from cancer.  She loved helping with her church’s bazaar, so I decided to contribute items last year and again this year in her memory.  This year I made crib sheets, baby bibs, and twisted infinity scarves for the bazaar.   With the help of Marcia’s family in Indiana, those items were set up with an “In Memory of Marcia Rush” sign and picture at the bazaar on Saturday, October 28th

Another of my projects was fitting a shirt pattern.  Sewing would be so much easier if I could just pick a pattern, cut out a garment and have it actually fit me with no alterations needed!  Anyway, I worked on Kwik Sew #3555 shirt pattern for almost a week.  I decided at that point it was as good as I could make it for now.  The next day I went to a three day shirt class taught by Bill Voetberg in Wyoming, Michigan at Lakeshore Sewing.

Bill did a trunk show for the Lansing Chapter American Sewing Guild (ASG) in September.  He showed many of his beautiful shirts.  Several of us were interested in taking a class from him.  Although we had made shirts in the past, we knew Bill was using techniques that would improve the quality of our shirts.  And we were not disappointed!

He showed us an easy technique to match stripes in the shirt placket to the stripes in the sleeve.  We also were shown a technique for folding back the front facings before cutting the fronts.  He also demonstrated his technique for applying the pocket and sewing the neckband and collar. 

There were eight students in the class and most of us were at different skill levels ranging from just beyond beginner to expert.  Bill managed to keep control of the class and kept us moving along.  This was a fast moving class which lasted only 15 hours, so not everyone completed the shirt in that amount of time.   I believe those who did not complete the shirt in class will be able to complete it at home using the knowledge gained from Bill’s demonstrations.  I finished my shirt yesterday. 

I enjoyed the class and liked Bill’s method of presentation.  No matter what problems we had with our shirts, Bill’s response was always, “Don’t worry.  We will handle it.”  And he did even though we were working with several different shirt patterns!  I would definitely take another class from him.
I hope each of you will take every opportunity to either learn a new sewing technique or improve a technique that is already familiar to you.  Have fun!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Twisted Infinity Scarf for Birthday Gift    -    September 8, 2017      

If you have just a basic knowledge of sewing, it is easy to make a birthday gift for someone special in a short period of time.  There are lots of quick gifts you can make, but for the birthday gift I needed this weekend, I chose the Twisted Infinity Scarf.   The recipient of my gift is one of those ladies who always looks “very well put together”.    I was surprised when I learned which birthday this is for her.  I would never have guessed the number.  Happy 80th birthday, Norita!

I started by making a fabric gift bag.  I used an orange floral print cotton left over from another project.  I used the directions given in my blog, How to Make Fabric Gift Bags, from April 10, 2017.

Then I looked through my fabric stash for an appropriate fabric to make a scarf.  I found a red and royal blue silky print fabric that will work great for a scarf.  It was 60 inches wide and 39 inches long.  I knew that would be long enough for the scarf but it was too wide, so I cut the fabric into two pieces 30 inches wide.  

I serged the raw edge of the long side of the fabric to create a clean finish.  After serging, I folded the right sides together lengthwise and sewed the long side together leaving a three inch opening in the middle of the seam.  With the fabric tube flat with the seam on one side, I marked the opposite side with a pin at one end.  Then I place that end inside the other end with right sides together and lined up the pin with the seam.  That created a twist in the scarf.  I sewed around the ends of the tube.  I actually serged around the seam but you could sew or serge it.  Then I turned the scarf right side out through the opening I left in the long seam.  I sewed the opening closed by hand.

This may be hard to visualize, but it is easy to do.  You can search on the internet for how to sew a twisted infinity scarf and find videos that will demonstrate the procedure.  If you like a long scarf, you should start with 2 yards of fabric and then cut that in half lengthwise.  That will give you two pieces 30 inches wide.  You will get 2 scarves from 2 yards of fabric.  I used just a little more than 1 yard of fabric because I do not like a long scarf.  I prefer the shorter length.  If your fabric is 59 – 60 inches wide, you can still get 2 scarves from 36 - 39 inches of fabric. 

Be creative!  Use your sewing skills to create a thoughtful handmade gift.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Lansing Clippers Sewing Retreat    -      September 4, 2017

The American Sewing Guild Lansing Chapter went to Shipshewana, Indiana for a sewing retreat August 24 – 26.  Twenty- two of us stayed at the Farmstead Inn and sewed for two days.  We sewed in a large, well-lit room with lots of natural light.  There was also a microwave and small refrigerator which made it convenient for all the snacks we took with us. 

This was the first sewing retreat I attended in a few years.   In the years past, I think I burned myself out.  I would sew until very late each night and start early the next morning.  I always went home exhausted!  I finally learned how to pace myself.  I started at a reasonable hour (around 8 a.m.) and sewed until 8:00 -  9:00 p.m.  Then I went to my room and got a good night’s sleep.  I enjoyed socializing with the others and I especially enjoyed seeing what projects everybody was sewing.  I also did a little shopping because our hotel was next door to Yoder’s Department Store, my favorite shop in Shipshewana. 

I worked on two projects at the retreat, brown pants and a coat.  I believe the pants were a success, but the coat was a disaster!  I finished the pants after I got home, but I haven’t touched the coat yet.  I used the MacPhee Workshop Designer Duffle Coat pattern.  I have probably made a dozen coats by this pattern in the past 20 years.  Well, times and styles have changed as well as my body.  I cut out the same size I usually make and thought I was on my way to another great winter coat.  It was truly great, but not in a good way.  It was a great mess!  It did not fit at all.  I love the fabric and so I decided I could save the coat by making a few alterations.  It is going to take more than a few fixes to make this coat into anything I want to wear.  I worked on it until I just could not stand to look at it anymore.  I put it away and worked on the brown pants.  If the coat cannot be rescued, maybe I will use the fabric to make a purse.  I will let you know how this turns out, but in the meantime, the coat will be an unfinished object (UFO) hiding in my sewing closet. 

For the brown pants I used the Fit for Art pattern, Eureka! Pants that Fit (http://fitforartpatterns.com).  I use that pattern for all my pants now.  It is the one I used last year when I blogged about making the 12-piece wardrobe that yields 64 coordinated outfits.  The pattern suggests cutting one long side of the waistband along the fabric selvage.  Then you do not need to clean-finish the edge.  I follow this procedure every time I make slacks now.  It gets rid of one step in making the slacks and it reduces bulk if you don’t turn under the edge of the band.  I included side-seam pockets in the brown pants.  I used a very small group of zig zag stitches at the top and bottom of the pockets.  This helps to keep the pockets close to the slacks and they don’t stick out away from your body.

I hope all of you are having good luck with your sewing projects.  Remember, you don’t have to be perfect with all your sewing endeavors, but try to learn something from each adventure.  I learned from the coat mishap to always make sure the pattern fits before you cut the fabric!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 23, 2017    -      The Williamstown Skirt

I recently finished a skirt made with the Williamstown Skirt pattern by Gail Patrice Design.  I saw the skirt pattern at a Gail Patrice event sponsored by the Lansing Chapter of the American Sewing Guild (ASG) in June this year.   The event was a hands-on embellishment class.  It was an excellent class because Gail is a great teacher.  She made sure each of us finished a technique before she proceeded to the next one.  I left there with several techniques I want to try on some of my garments.  So far, I haven’t had to time to attempt any of them. 

Gail showed us many samples of her garments including the Williamstown Skirt.  I was intrigued with the skirt because I liked the different shaped gores that comprised the skirt.  I purchased the pattern and decided I would make the skirt before I tried some of the embellishment techniques I learned.  The very next month I found the perfect fabric for the skirt at the ASG meeting.  It was a beautiful piece of lime green linen-look fabric that would drape well for a gored skirt.  And it was on the FREE table!  What a find!  Thank you Colleen Bofysil for contributing that fabric to the free table!

I couldn’t wait to start cutting the pieces of the pattern.  The pattern consisted of 10 pieces and each piece had to be cut individually on a single layer of fabric.  I don’t know why, but I cut out the size extra-large pieces.  I thought I took my measurements before cutting.  If I did, I did not read the numbers correctly.  After I sewed the 10 gores together, I found the skirt was huge on me.  It was also too long.  I was able to get the skirt to fit me in the hips by taking much larger side seams.

Next I worked on making the skirt shorter.  The Guide Sheet included a section on how to do this.  It suggested sewing together a piece of one inch elastic that fits your waist.  Then you can pull up the skirt to the desire length through the elastic circle to make sure the bottom of the skirt is even all around, and mark where the top of the elastic is with chalk.  If you can’t mark the back by yourself, you may need to enlist the help of a friend or family member.   Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure this would work for me because the skirt was so much longer than the length I wear.  In fact, it almost touched the floor.  But I liked this skirt and I was determined to get it to fit me, so I gave the method a try.  I started by cutting off 4 ½ inches off the top of the skirt.  Then I put on the skirt with the fitting elastic and pulled the skirt up to the length desired.  I was not able to mark the top of the elastic by myself.  So, I called my neighbor, Linda McCoy, and she marked the skirt for me.   After the skirt was marked, I cut off another 2 inches from the top. 

It is always a good idea to read through a pattern before using if the first time.  I did this, but I did not read it thoroughly.  The pattern does not list the two lining pieces in the “Pattern Pieces” section of the guide sheet.  So, I wrongly assumed there were no lining pieces until I got to Step 10 which read: “Stitch the CF, CB and side seams of lining.”  The light bulb went on for me.  If I had read the pattern thoroughly, I would have cut the lining first and Step 10 would have been Step 1 for me.  So my advice to anyone who tries this pattern is to cut the lining first.  After you fit the lining, you will know which size skirt to cut.  I know it would have been easier for me to fit this skirt if I had done just that. 

I love the pattern and it is easy to sew the pieces together.  The instructions are clear and easy to understand.  I wish the lining pieces were listed in the “Pattern Pieces” section of the guide sheet,  but I accept blame for not reading through the pattern instructions thoroughly.  Gail does include her email address at the end of the guide sheet for questions or comments.  All things considered, I love the skirt and I plan to use the pattern again.

A picture of the skirt is shown below.  

Unfortunately, the seams don't show up in this photo or in the photo of the pattern envelope.  This would be a good pattern to do some decorative stitching on the seams.  Maybe next time!

Good luck with your sewing projects.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Me Two and Me Three Aprons -    July 24, 2017

I finally finished the Me Two and Me Three aprons to go with the Mimi and Me aprons I posted on June 23rd.  This summer has been really busy with traveling, camping, and everyday life events!   I try to sew several times a week, but sometimes that is just not possible. 

I was unable to use the same pattern as the one I used for the Mimi and Me aprons because it did not include the sizes I needed for Me Two and Me Three.  Instead, I used Simplicity 1240 and modified it to be suitable for boys.  I got rid of the ruffles, the angled cut of the side seams, crisscrossed straps on the back of the apron, and the gathered, decorated pocket.  I made substitutions to make the aprons look as much like the Mimi and Me aprons as possible.

I did not think the flower print fabrics I used for the Mimi and Me aprons were appropriate for aprons for young boys.  I kept the same colors, but substituted a solid color (orange) fabric and a print of gnomes, pinwheels, and orange flamingos.  I used the same style pocket and I cut the side seams straight to get rid of the excess fabric at the bottom of the aprons.  I included a strap around the neck like the one used in the larger aprons. 

I hope Mimi’s grandchildren will enjoy cooking with Mimi while wearing coordinated aprons!


Friday, June 23, 2017

Mimi and Me Aprons  -  June 23, 2017

I finally finished the two aprons I mentioned in my May 31st posting.  May and June were busy months for me, so I did not accomplish all the sewing projects I planned.  Most of them will still get done, just not as soon as intended.  

For the aprons I used Simplicity Pattern No. 2691.  I made two changes to the pattern.   The pattern called for a pocket and a pocket band.  I did not use the pocket band.  I simply cut the pocket the size of the original pocket with the band.  Then I had only one piece instead of two and the pocket was still the same size as if I had used both pieces.  I also added the lettering on the aprons with my Pfaff Creative Vision Pro sewing machine.

The aprons are reversible and are made from 100 per cent cotton.  After I made the aprons, I realized I should make two more aprons.  There are two more “me’s” in the family and I don’t want to leave them out.  They enjoy cooking with Mimi, too.  So, I will add that to my list of future projects.  I will try to refrain from mailing the aprons to my daughter, Loretta, until I finished the other two.  Then she can give the aprons to all three of her grandchildren at the same time.

Hopefully, I can work on some of my unfinished projects today.  I hope you are making progress with yours!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Laundry Bag                  June 14, 2017

I finished the laundry bag just in time for the graduation party.  I used light-weight denim printed with purple flowers.  The bag was made almost the same way I made the gift bags described in my post of April 10, 2017.  The differences are the size and the two pockets.  Actually, I got a little carried away with the size and had to cut the bag down after I sewed the sides together. The fabric I used was 54 inches wide, so when I sewed the sides together, the circumference of the bag was about 53 inches.  I took off about 10 inches and then sewed it back together. 

When I squared the bottom, I intentionally used a much larger measurement than I used on the gift bags to sew across the triangle created by aligning the side seam with the bottom seam.  I used five or six inches instead of the 1 ½ inches used on the gift bags.   This causes the bottom of the bag to be wider which I wanted for the laundry bag. 

I added a pocket with a zipper on the outside of the laundry bag to be used for coins or other items.  A picture of the coin pocket is shown below.  I wanted this pocket to be hidden, so I placed a larger pocket over it.  The larger pocket can be used to carry a bottle of laundry detergent.  I placed the pocket very close to the bottom of the bag so the weight of the detergent bottle won’t tip over the bag.  I embroidered a monogram on the pocket before I attached it to the bag.

I left only one opening for the cording in the casement at the top of the bag instead of the two openings I left for the gift bags.  I used a 3/8 inch cording and it pulls one way to close the bag.  This is a quick and easy gift to make for a student who will be leaving for college soon.
I hope you are making progress on all of your sewing projects.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

So Many Sewing Projects                     May 31, 2017

There are four of us in one of my sewing groups who have Baby Lock Ovation and Evolution sergers.   We decided to do a project specifically to learn techniques and stitches on our sergers.  We chose a pattern that Stoney found on line and started making tote bags.  I think we surprised ourselves with how much we actually accomplished.  The pattern is Creative Tote by Deb Canham                     (http://www.debcanhamstudio.com/ ).  This is not a bag that can be serged together in a few hours.  At least not by someone who is not proficient at making all the stitches available on a serger.   I will let you know when this project is completed and will post a picture.

Stoney and I also took a three-day serger class at Country Stitches in East Lansing last week.  The class was taught by Denise Schober ( https://www.deniseschober.com/ ), who is a “trained professional” as she likes to call herself!  She is a really great teacher and knows all kinds of helpful hints to make using a serger easier!  She taught us to use approximately twenty (20) different feet for our sergers.  I hope I can retain the information I was given.  It helps that we were given a workbook with descriptions of the feet and the settings for our machines.     Most of the feet can be used for more than one purpose.   We made a purse on the last day in class using some of the feet and techniques we learned.   It will be important for us to use these techniques in other projects at home in order to retain what we learned in class.  I think the information from this class will be helpful with making the Creative Tote.  I also want to find time to thread my serger for the cover stitch and then unthread it and rethread it again at least ten times so I can get proficient with that.  I have a little trouble remembering how to thread the needles for the cover stitch.  I know if I keep repeating it, it will become as easy as threading a sewing machine.

This past weekend I took my Baby Lock serger and my Pfaff Creative Sensation Pro to Sweetser, Indiana for my granddaughter, McClane, to use to make her 4-H project.  She is making a wool coat and is almost done.  This is a good thing because the fair is in June.  This is her last 4H project because she graduates from high school in June.

I also have three gifts I want to make.   I have started a laundry bag for a graduation gift and I also want to make two aprons for another gift.  Maybe I will be able to finish and post a picture of at least one of these gifts this week.

I still need to make some summer pants and blouses for myself, but I have so many projects and so little time.  If I could sew at night, it would help.  I don’t enjoy sewing after dark because my eyesight is not what it used to be.   So, I try to limit my sewing to daylight hours.

I hope your sewing projects are going well.  This is a busy time of year with graduation parties, gardening, and just regular daily activities, but don’t forget to save some time to sew!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

"It’s Sew Spring" with Angela Wolf    

Last Thursday I attended a one day session titled “It’s Sew Spring” sponsored by the Michigan Bishop Sewing Council.  It was held in Grandville, Michigan and the featured speaker was fashion and pattern designer, Angela Wolf.  I got so much more out of that session than I ever imagined was possible! 

I have seen Angela at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan, but I assumed her patterns would not fit me because my figure type has nothing in common with hers!  But I found her patterns include the size that should fit me.  I will find out soon because I purchased a couple of her patterns.   I spoke with Angela during one of the breaks and she advised me which size she thought would work for me.  I just looked at one of the patterns, The Evelyn Dress and Jacket #AW5314, and was amazed by the detailed  instructions and handy hints she included in the pattern.  Unlike most patterns, it did not come with a sheet of sewing instructions.  Instead, it came with a spiral-bound booklet!  The booklet included detailed sewing instructions, drawings of the process, a place to make notes about your project, and many hints including fitting with a muslin and finishing seams.  She also included a section titled “Sewing 101” which has information about needles, twill tape, pressing, and pressing tools.  In other words, she has everything covered in this pattern!

I also purchased a video titled One Pattern, Many Ways, Volume Two.  I haven’t had an opportunity to view it yet, but I am sure it will not disappoint!  In this video, Angela shows how to change the Evelyn Dress and Jacket Pattern.  I was told she shows how to change the jacket into a “Chanel” version.  That may be the first thing I make from this pattern.  She showed many examples of the Chanel jacket in her presentation.  They were lined with silk charmeuse.  The jackets looked and felt luxurious!

For the last several years, Angela Wolf had a booth at the American Sewing Expo (ASE) and also taught classes there.  As I said in a previous post (The Demise of the American Sewing Expo), the ASE offered sewists in this area a great opportunity to take classes from well-known and talented teachers as well as an opportunity to buy their products on-site. 

Angela Wolf gave an informative and attention-holding presentation.  She showed us many garments and talked about the techniques she used to make them.  Not only did she hold up each garment for the audience to see, she also passed each one around for us to hold, examine up close and even take pictures if we chose to do so.  She was very accommodating. 
Angela’s patterns can be purchased at http://www.angelawolfpatterns.com/ and you can follow her blog at http://fashionsewingwithangelawolf.com/blog/.

Have you been to a good sewing class or presentation lately?  I hope you will take the opportunity to attend one to increase your knowledge of sewing!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Fitting Agony     -    May 1, 2017

I had trouble getting a blouse pattern to fit me.  The blouse I made on my Sew Coordinated Blog last year from Simplicity 8053 now seems to be a little tight under the arms.  Okay, I admit it.  I may have gained a few pounds!  I have some extra fabric, so I ripped out the sleeves and tried to alter the armscye.  That was a losing battle.  So, I decided to try a different pattern.

Several years ago, I had a body scan done by Unique Patterns while I was at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan.  That was a great investment.  After the body scan, I could order patterns from Unique that were generated from the computer using my personal measurements.  The patterns were fairly accurate.  Once in a while something was not quite right, but Unique would make corrections if the customer reported the problems.  I purchased a blouse pattern that I liked, but it had a small problem.  The pattern for the collar stand was just a little smaller than what it should have been, so I always had problems with a small amount of puckers when I attached the collar stand to the blouse neckline.  I was able to get most of the puckers out, but it took several attempts each time I made a blouse.  I don’t know why I didn’t just make the adjustment myself or call Unique and have them do it, but I never did.  And sure enough, Unique Patterns went out of business!  If I had seen that coming, I would have asked for the change to be made in the blouse pattern and I would have purchased other patterns as well.  

Anyway, I decided to use the Unique pattern again.  I tried on a blouse made from the pattern and made some adjustments.  I liked the collar from the blouse I made last year using Simplicity 8053.  That pattern incorporated the collar with the stand so the two pieces are just one piece.  So, I did the same with the Unique pattern.  I made the blouse from cotton fabric purchased from Country Stitches.   Good quality cotton wrinkles less than the cheaper varieties and is much easier to iron.  I really like this fabric because it has so many colors in it.  It will coordinate well with almost any color pants or skirt.  A picture of the finished blouse is shown below.  

I tried several colors of buttons including red, green, blue, and white, but none looked good.  Then I found a tri-colored button in my stash.  I purchased them from Fabric Gallery in Williamston just before the store closed permanently.  I think these buttons are perfect for this blouse.  The red, blue, and pink stripes on the buttons work well with the stripes in the blouse.

I am not happy with the finished blouse, but it is wearable.  However, it is not “4H ready”.  Any of you with 4H experience understand what I am saying.  In other words, it would not pass close up  scrutiny on both the outside and inside!  So, I plan to make another change to the pattern and try again.  On the blouse I made this time, I changed the neckline by making it smaller at the shoulders.  Since I don’t think that worked the way I desired, I will put the neckline back to the original and the next time I will increase the size of the collar.  Hopefully, this change will work better. 

For me, fitting is an ongoing process.  I never get the “fit perfection” I am always seeking!  I can’t tell you how many classes on fitting I have taken or how many different fitting techniques I have tried from books and videos.  Maybe the problem is my body keeps changing.  At any rate, I will not give up!  I will keep trying to get the fit I want.  I don’t think I am alone with this fit problem.  I think a lot of people have the same issue.  In fact, I believe the reason so many people gave up on making clothes for themselves and took up quilting instead is that fitting a bed is so much easier than fitting a body!

A year or so ago, I read about a business in Washington, D.C. that would scan your body and make a personalized dress form for you.  I thought that might be the answer to my fitting problem.  I called the owner of the business to get more information.  She told me her clients were required to travel to her store in Washington for the scanning.  The cost of the dress form was almost $900.00.  I would be willing to pay that if I could be sure it would resolve my fitting issues.  The sticking point was the trip to Washington. D.C.  I knew I would not be able to drive in that city.  I also knew I am too chicken to fly to Washington by myself.  And so far, I have not been able to convince my husband to make the trip.  I tried to convince the business owner she should travel the county and take her scanner to several regions where American Sewing Guild members might be interested in having scans made to purchase dress forms.  She said she was in the process of testing the scanner to see if it could withstand traveling from point to point and still remain accurate.  I have not heard if those tests were accurate.  And I have not seen any ads about the dress forms lately.  Maybe I will try to contact her and get an update.

I miss Unique Patterns and wish some other company would offer patterns made with our personal measurements.  I recently saw ads from a company called Sew Fitography that offers a similar service.  You buy and download software and then follow directions to take your own photo and upload that along with certain measurements.  I don’t know anyone who has tried this, but I am curious about it.  The software is only $30.00 and the patterns are about $15.00.  If you are interested in checking out this process, the website is https://sewfitography.com/.  I am thinking about buying the software and trying it.  If you have used this product, I would appreciate hearing about your experience with it. 

Good luck with getting your patterns to fit your body!


Monday, April 10, 2017

How to Make Fabric Gift Bags  - April 10, 2017    

Are you looking for something to wrap an Easter gift or perhaps a birthday gift?  An easy solution is to make a fabric gift bag.  You can make a gift bag from one or two rectangles.  I prefer to use two rectangles and I will explain why at the end of these directions.  If you are an avid sewer, I am sure you have lots of fabric in your stash you could use.  
  1. Assemble your supplies.  You will need fabric, thread, ribbon, and a bodkin or small safety pin to insert the ribbon.
  2. Cut two rectangles suitable for the size of your gift.  You can judge the size needed by laying the gift on a cutting mat and adding several inches to the sides to allow for the thickness of the gift.  Then add several inches at the bottom to allow for room to square the bottom.  Also add 3 - 4 inches to the top to allow for the casing.  Read through these directions before you begin.
  3. Clean finish all four edges of both rectangles with a serger or pinking shears.  Right sides together, sew the bottom seam of the bag.  Press the seam open.
  4. Right sides together, prepare to sew the side seams.  Before you sew, use chalk to mark an opening on both sides for the ribbon you will use to close the bag.  Place a chalk mark about 2 inches from the top edge of the bag and another about 5/8 inch below the first.  Sew from the top to the first mark.  Back tack and cut thread.  Skip to the next mark and begin by back tacking.  Then sew to the seam at the bottom of the bag.  Do not sew through the seam allowance.  Stop at the seam and back tack.  This will make it easier to square the bottom of the bag in step 6.  Clip the seam allowance just above the bottom seam.  Be careful not to cut through your stitches.  Sew the other side seam in the same manner and press seams open.
  5. Sew down about 2 1/2 inches on each side of both seams from the top of the bag.  This will make it easier to get the ribbon through the casing because it keeps the seam flat.
  6. To make the casing, fold 1 1/2 inches down from the top of the bag and press to the inside.  Stitch the fold down by sewing in the serged area around the bag or if you pinked the edges, sew just above the pinked edge.  Now sew another line just above the two openings to complete the casing.
  7. Turn the bag wrong side out to square the bottom.  To do this, align a side seam to the bottom seam to form a triangle.  Stitch in place across the triangle, usually 1 - 1 1/2 inches from the point.  You may choose to use a larger measurement.  A larger measurement will make the bag shorter and the bottom wider.  Sew the other side of the bag in the same manner, making sure to use the same measurement across the triangle.  
  8. Cut two pieces of ribbon.  The length of each should be two times the width of the bag plus 10    inches.  Use a bodkin or safety pin to insert the ribbon into one of the openings in the casing.    Go around the entire circumference and exit the same opening where you began.  Tie the ends  of the ribbon together.  Use the other piece of ribbon and insert it into the opposite opening        and go around the entire circumference of the bag.  Exit the opening where you began with        this ribbon.  

Your bag is now completed!  I usually put a sheet or two of tissue paper in my bags before I place the gift inside.  This provides a little protection for the gift and gives shape to the bag.

I mentioned earlier I would explain why I prefer to use two rectangles instead of one.  It will work if you use just one rectangle and fold it in half to create two sides instead of sewing two pieces together.  However, if you use a one directional print, the print on one side of your bag will be upside down.  Also, when you make the triangle using the one piece method, there will not be a bottom seam to align with the side seam when you make the triangles to square the bottom.  Instead you will need to measure from the side seam to the edge of both sides of the fold of the triangle to determine when the seam is centered on the bottom of the bag.  Therefore, I prefer to use two rectangles and then I do not worry about the direction of the print and it is quicker to square the bottom.

I hope you enjoy making fabric bags as much as I do.  I buy holiday fabric right after a holiday when the fabric is usually on sale.  I try to keep a supply on hand of different size bags made from holiday fabric.  I also keep other nonspecific fabric bags on hand for birthday and other gifts.  I use solid color and print fabric.  I like to use 100% cotton because it is easy to sew, but I also use other fabrics as well.  Satin makes an elegant bag to use for a wedding gift.  Have fun making your gift bags!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

How to Make a Simple Purse without a Pattern     -     April 1, 2017

Need a gift for a friend or family member?  Consider making the gift more special by making it yourself.  Search your stash for fabric to make a simple purse without a pattern.

The key is to think about the design and the order of the steps needed before you begin.  Most purses are made from rectangles or slight variations of the rectangles and can be made any size you desire.  They can be made with or without a lining.   You can use double sided quilted cotton, home décor fabric, corduroy, denim or almost any other fabric.  Most likely you will need a stabilizer.  You can use interfacing, quilt batting, fleece, or a foam stabilizer like Soft and Stable.  If you use double sided quilted cotton, you will not need a stabilizer.  You can use purchased double sided quilted cotton or make your own.  For the purse shown below, I made my double sided quilted fabric.  I used one layer of home décor fabric from my stash with a layer of quilt batting and one layer of cotton fabric. 

After I measured a purse I liked to decide what size I wanted, I cut 2 rectangles of the home décor fabric, the cotton fabric, and quilt batting.  I allowed ½ inch for seams.  Then I quilted the three layers together using cross hatching.  I did the same for the other half of the purse.

Next, I decided how many pockets I wanted on the inside and outside of the purse.  I wanted as many pockets as possible.  The key to adding pockets to both sides is to place them so they don’t interfere with each other.  A pocket on the inside will do you no good, if you sew over it when you place another pocket on the outside.  To avoid this, I made a deep pocket for the inside of the purse that was the width of the rectangle and sewed down the middle to divide the pocket into two sections.  Then I sewed across the bottom of only one section.   I folded the loose section out of the way and turned the fabric over to the outside.  Then I made a cell phone pocket and sewed down the side of that pocket closest to the middle dividing stitch of the inside pocket.    I did not sew across the bottom of the cell phone pocket because that was below the bottom of the inside pocket.   Then I turned over the fabric and returned to the 2- section pocket.   I folded the unattached section of the cell phone pocket out of the way.  Then I  folded the first section of the inside pocket into place and sew the bottom down.  I did not sew the sides of this pocket at this time because they would be eventually be sewn into the side seams.  After that I flipped the fabric over and sewed the bottom and left side of the cell phone pocket.    

My next step was to decide what order to sew pockets on the other purse piece.  I made a small pocket for the inside, so I installed that first.  Then I made a larger zipped pocket for the outside.  I placed the zippered pocket so the stitches did not cross into the area of the inside pocket.

I trimmed the sides of the purse to make it smaller at the top and a little larger at the bottom.  Then I installed the zipper and strap.  Next, I place right sides of the purse together and sewed the side seams and the bottom.  I squared the bottom and my purse was finished. 

Making a purse is easy and fun.  No pattern is needed.  You probably have fabric in your stash to make one.   Just cut rectangles for the purse body and for the pockets.  Attention to detail is needed to make sure the pockets are sewn in the correct sequence.  If you sew them out of order, you can always get you ripper and make corrections!   If you want more detailed directions, I posted the size of the rectangles I used and the sequence of steps including photos on my website, chickenlittlesews.com.  Just click on “tutorials”.

Have fun sewing!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demise of the American Sewing Expo (ASE)   - March 22, 2017

Last September I spent three days at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan.  In the past I took as many classes as possible and also spent a lot of time shopping at the sewing vendors.  Then I experienced an overload of classes, so I only went there to shop.  Of course I made sure I was there at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the show, so I was eligible to win one of the many prizes given away at that time.  Each year the number of vendors and visitors dwindled.

In 2016 I signed up for a Wednesday preshow class taught by Gail Patrice Yellen.  This was a hands-on class taught by a nationally recognized instructor.  I am so glad I made the decision to invest my time and money to take the class.  

I returned to the expo Saturday and Sunday for two more classes.  I was really a little disappointed when I walked into the hall where the vendor displays were.  There were even less than last year!    I knew then ASE was in trouble!  I knew if the vendors did not come, the attendees would not come and there would not be a show! 

About a week ago I received an email from ASE confirming my worst fears for the show were a reality.  Swatches, the newsletter of the ASE, announced the expo is being replaced by Sewcial Retreats!  I felt really sad when I read this news.  The sewists in this area have been really fortunate to have a sewing show like this for so many years.  It has been an excellent venue to take sewing and serger classes from high caliber teachers as well as a place to shop for hard to find sewing related products. 

Yesterday I called Janet Pray to talk to her about the expo.  Although I am sad about the demise of the ASE, I understand why Janet decided to discontinue it.  It could not continue as a viable business if the vendors and attendees were decreasing in large numbers each year.  The internet affected the ASE just as it has affected the business of almost all brick and mortar stores.  Vendors aren’t interested in transporting their goods great distances and set up booths to sell those goods when they can easily sell them on line without the travel expense and booth expense.  The same is true for those of us who take classes.  Many prefer to sign up for on line classes with the ability to take the class at their convenience and in the comfort of their homes.  Classes like Craftsy and others give you the benefit of being able to repeat the class as many times as you wish.  When you take a lot of classes in 3 or 4 days, it is possible to experience information overload.  It is difficult to retain what you learn, if you take in too much information in a short period of time.

The world is changing.  Sewing is changing and the business of sewing is also changing.   We may not like all the changes, but all of us have contributed to the changes in some way. 

Janet Pray has done the Sewcial Retreats for a few years now and has received many good comments from those who attended.  If you are on the list for the ASE newsletter, you will receive information about the Sewcial Retreats.  If you are not on the list and would like to receive information, the website is americansewingexpo.com/sewcial.html. 

Good luck on your sewing projects.  I hope you continue to find ways to improve your sewing skills and your creativity!


Friday, March 17, 2017

My Favorite Places to Shop In and Near Shipshewana, Indiana – March 17, 2017

I haven’t sewn much lately.  I have been busy recuperating from the “crude” (also known as a really bad cold) and traveling with my husband to the Topeka Horse Sale in Indiana.  Things should be back to normal soon and I can get busy with more sewing for spring.  I did finish the navy blue pants I mentioned in my post of Feb. 17.    I did not find any fabric for the floral print skirt I wanted to make.  I may have to settle for a solid color one instead. 

While we were in Indiana, we stayed at the Blue Gate Garden Inn in Shipshewana.  During the day while my husband was at the horse sale, I entertained myself by visiting the shops in and near Shipshewana.  I thought I would share some of my favorite shops with you.  Not all of the shops sold fabric, but most of them did.  If you have favorites in the area that I missed, please let me know about them.  I would hate to miss an opportunity to shop!

Anytime I am in Indiana, I like to visit Zinck’s Fabric Outlet in Ligonier if possible.  Ligonier is 15.2 miles south of Shipshewana on State Road 5.  The address for Zinck’s is 1444 S. Lincolnway (SR5).  It is an easy drive and is well worth the few minutes it takes to get there.  Zinck’s is a large store that carries cotton fabric, fashion fabric, decorator fabric, wool, denim, knits, various other fabrics, and notions.  The merchandise is constantly changing.  I might go there one day and not find anything I want, but a couple of weeks later I may find lots of items.  The store does have a nice selection of 100% cottons for quilting and 108 inch wide fabric for backing.   Last year when I was making fabric gift bags, I found ribbon and fabric for the bags at very reasonable prices.  Most of the fabric I purchased for the bags was $2.00 or $3.00 a yard, which I found in the clearance section; however, I bought a 10-yard piece for $4.50.   That made the cost just $0.45 a yard.  It may not have been the very best quality, but it worked fined for fabric gift bags.   The employees at Zinck’s are friendly and helpful.  This time when I visited Zinck’s I purchased more ribbon.

On the way back to Shipshewana I decided to make a stop in Topeka.  Topeka is 7.6 miles from  Ligonier.  You turn right off State Road 5 onto 700 S and that takes you into Topeka.  There is a new store called the General Store.  The address is 102 N. Main.  It is in a new red building.  This store carries a wide variety of products.  It has many household items from towels to dishes, cleaning products, books, and gifts.  However, there was no fabric!

If you are in Topeka, you may want to visit Sarah’s Attic.  It is located upstairs in the Topeka Pharmacy at 101 N. Main, which is directly across the street from the General Store.  Sarah’s Attic is a small shop that carries sewing supplies and fabrics.  They have 100% cotton fabric and a small supply of knitting yarn.  Downstairs, the Topeka Pharmacy has jewelry and other gift items.  The pharmacy also fills prescriptions and carries over-the-counter medicine and cosmetics.  If you catch a cold while in the area, this is the place to purchase a cold medicine and maybe get a recommendation for one from the pharmacist on duty.  They also have an old fashioned soda fountain in the back of the store.

After leaving Topeka, I returned to State Road 5 and headed north towards Shipshewana, but I wanted to make one more stop not far from Topeka.  I turned east onto W. 300 S. and went to Emmatown Fabrics and Gifts.  It is the first place after you make the turn.  The address is 7785 W 300 S.   The store sells 100% cotton fabrics, 108 inch wide backing fabrics, and flannels.  She also has many gift items including drones and musical movement clocks.   The owner has a quilting frame set up in her store where she can quilt when she is not busy with customers.    My husband purchased a jigsaw puzzle and I bought some flannel for a baby crib sheet.  If there is fabric in a store, it is hard for me to leave without some!

There is a new store in Shipshewana called Country Road.  It is in a big new gray building on State Road 5 just before Ben’s Pretzels if you are coming from the Farmstead Inn.  It looks interesting from the outside, but it has nothing for tourists, especially those who enjoy sewing.  Most of the items for sale are clothing and shoes for the Amish.  However, do not get discouraged.  There are still plenty of other places in Shipshewana that carry fabric and other items that interest people who love to sew!

My most favorite place to shop is Yoder Department Store.   It is at 300 S. Van Buren Street (SR5) next to the Farmstead Inn.  What I like about the store is not only the products, but the fantastic customer service.  If they are out of your size, they will order it for you and telephone you when it is available.  They have ordered shoes, jeans, and even socks for my husband and me.  Last fall I discovered a great brand of men’s socks at Yoder.  The brand name is Darn Tough and they are made in Vermont and are “guaranteed for life”.  They come in different styles like boot socks, hiking socks, and crew socks.  I purchased several for gifts and everyone loved them.  This week I noticed that Yoder now stocks Darn Tough Socks in the Women’s Section and they come in beautiful colors.  I haven’t tried them yet, but I plan to purchase some on my next trip there.  They also have a huge collection of fabrics including 100% cottons and fashion fabrics.  They carry patterns and all kinds of sewing notions.

Across the hall from the department store is Yoder Hardware.  I love to browse there.  They have all kinds of gift items, kitchen utensils, cookbooks, and the items you expect to find in a hardware store.   I purchased an interesting cookbook called Ramen Noodle Genius.  It includes recipes for soups, salads, meatballs, stir-fry and more.

Directly across the street from Yoder Department Store is Spector’s Store.  They carry items for the Amish but they also have a nice selection of 100% cotton fabrics in the back of the store.  I purchased 10 yards of cotton fabric and my before tax cost was $34.50.  Then they deducted 10% for a promotion they were having, so my pretax cost for 10 yards of 100% cotton fabric was $31.05.  By the way that included 3 yards of Batik fabric.

Any trip to Shipshewana requires a stop at Lolly’s.  Lolly’s is located on the main floor of the Davis Mercantile Building at 255 Main Street.  This shop has a huge array of 100% cotton fabrics.  They also have a large selection of sewing and quilting books.  Until recently Lolly had a bargain shop on the lower level of the building where they sold sale fabric.  That has been closed and is now incorporated into the shop on the main floor.  The March special at Lolly’s was bundles of 10 inch squares reduced from about $40 to $20.  They also had bundles of 5 inch squares reduced from $10 to $5.  I believe both sizes had approximately 42 squares in a bundle. 

I can’t go into the Davis Mercantile Building without stopping at Jo Jo’s Pretzels.  I usually have a pretzel for lunch at least one day when I am there.  They do sell other food items that are probably more appropriate for lunch!

I rarely ever purchase anything from Sarah Davis Ltd on the main floor of the Davis Mercantile Building because their products are usually very expensive.  They do carry some reasonably priced jewelry items.   I did see a very small purse there I liked.  It was a Vera Bradley with a price of $168.00.  I wanted to buy it for a gift for my granddaughter but I thought the price was prohibitive!  I did find a small “wallet on a string” that was reduced from $59.99 to $10.00.  That was more in line with my budget, so I bought that for myself to use when I go to the Quilt Show in Grand Rapids.  I can take that instead of one of my large, heavy purses.  I would take it to the American Sewing Expo in Novi in September, but I just learned this week that show has been discontinued.  Janet Prey is doing Sewcial Retreats instead.   Anyway back to my topic of shopping in Shipshewana.

Options is located on the 2nd floor of the Davis Mercantile Building.  They have ladies’ clothing and accessories.  They have a great selection of jewelry, watches, and purses.  I purchased a small cross-over purse for my granddaughter for her birthday.  It was well within my budget at a price of $22.

The Craft Barn is in the center of downtown Shipshewana directly across from the Blue Gate Restaurant.  They have lots of jewelry, purses, gifts, and other accessories.    I frequently buy gifts from there for friends, family and myself!

I never leave Shipshewana without a stop at E & S Sales.  E & S Sales is a grocery store that also carries bulk foods, meats, cheese, baking ingredients, and candy.  There is a deli, bakery and ice cream shop in the store. 

Just across the parking lot from E & S Sales is Eash Sales.  This shop has everything for the home including kitchenware, canning supplies, cookware, outdoor furniture, and gift items.  There is no fabric here, but it is a unique shop worth taking the time to browse through.  I noticed they even carry the same iron I am currently using, the Euro Steam Next Generation 1000W, and they sell it for the same price I paid at the American Sewing Expo in Novi.

During my travels this time I discovered a shop I had not noticed.   It is called “I Sell Fabric” and is located at 5520 N State Road 5.  Of course, I had to stop to investigate.  The owner told me he has been at this location for two years now.  He carries 100% cotton fabric that is all made in the USA.  He also has a selection of 108 inch backing for quilts.  He is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  The building is back from the road a little bit so it is difficult to see when you are driving on State Road 5.  Just look for the purple flag that is placed close to the road.  His fabric is reasonably priced and he does have some that is on sale.  He and his wife also have a fabric shop in one of the buildings at spaces 584 – 586 in the Flea Market.

These are some of places I typically shop when I visit the Shipshewana area.  I picked up a booklet this time titled “Shipshewana LaGrange County 2017 Visitors Guide”.   It has a listing of most of the shops in the area along with other information such as hours of operation and whether or not they accept credit cards.  I got mine from the Blue Gate Garden Inn, but I believe the other hotels in the area will also have copies.

Our ASG Chapter, the Lansing Clippers, will hold a sewing retreat in Shipshewana at the Farmstead Inn in August this year.   I hope all of you will have a chance to visit the shops in the area while you are there.  Be sure to use the 10% off coupon given us by owners of the I Sell Fabric Store.   You will be given information about the coupon at the Lansing Clippers’ meeting Monday, March  20, 2017.

I hope all of you are having fun sewing and planning projects for spring and summer!