Saturday, March 28, 2020

Second Small Project

In last week’s post, I said I would share a series of small projects to make while all of us are confined to our homes during the corona virus outbreak.  Since then, our quilt shops and other fabric shops have been forced to close.  However, some of them are continuing to take orders via email or telephone messages.  I know Country Stitches in East Lansing is continuing to take orders and will mail your purchases to you.  You can get more information about this on Country Stitches Facebook Page. 

The second small project in this series is a table runner.  If you are a quilter or a former quilter, this will be a very easy project for you.  If you haven’t quilted, but know how to sew or sewed years ago, this will still be an easy project for you.   Although I have made two or three quilts in my lifetime, I don’t consider myself a real quilter.  I make clothes instead.  So, if I can make a table runner, I know that you can, too!   A picture of the finished table runner is shown below.  I chose to make my table runner using Christmas fabrics because I had the fabrics in my stash.  

A list of what you need to get ready to sew your table runner is shown below. 

Strips of fabric
Middle strip -   8 ½” x 42” or width of fabric    *note – The width of the fabric will vary a little.  Don’t worry.  You can even the strips after they are sewn together.
Strips to both edges of middle strip -   2 strips 1 ½” x 42” or width of fabric
Outside strips – 2 strips 1 ¾” x 42” or width of fabric
Binding – 3 strips 2 1/2” x 42” or width of fabric

Back of Runner
15” x 42” or width of fabric  This will be a little larger than needed, but the extra will be cut off when the runner is assembled.

15” x 43”  This will be a little larger than needed, but the extra will be cut off when the runner is assembled.

Sewing Strips
Sew the strips together in the following order to make the top of your runner.

With the right side of the middle strip up, place one of the 1 ½” strips on top with the right side down and sew together.  Sew the other 1 ½” strip to the other edge of the middle strip.

Next, sew the right side of one of the outside strips to the right side of one of the 1 ½” strips you just sewed to the middle strip.  Sew the remaining outside strip to the other 1 1/2" strip on the other edge.

Press the seams in the direction of the middle strip and use a rotary cutter to even the edges.  You just completed the top of the runner.

Sandwiching the Runner Together
With the wrong side of the back of the table runner facing up, place the batting on top and center the top of the runner with the right side up on top of the batting.   Use a few pins to hold in place.  Next, stitch in the ditch (in the seam) on both sides of each strip that borders the middle strip.  

Quilting the Middle Strip
You can quilt the runner in any manner you prefer.  I chose to just quilt the middle strip.  To do this, I laid my ruler at an angle across the middle of the strip and drew a chalk line.

I attached my quilting guide to the presser foot ankle of my machine.  I spaced it 1 ½ inches from the needle.  I used a stitch setting of 3 ½ mm.  I sewed across the middle strip on the chalk line.  Then I moved the stitched line under the quilting guide and sewed across the strip while keeping the first stitched line under the quilting guide.  I continued moving and sewing across this strip until I reached the end of the strip.  Then I turned the strip in the opposite direction and stitched in the same manner across the other half of the strip.

Then I placed my ruler at  the center of the middle strip across the lines I just stitched and drew a chalk line.  Then I stitched across that chalk line and moved across the strip sewing lines just as I did on the strip in the other direction.

After you finish the quilting, trim around the runner to even the edges.

Sewing the Binding

Place one strip of binding with the right side up.  Then at one end of the strip place a second strip right side down at a 90 degree angle.  Place your ruler at the top left side of the second strip and angle down to the bottom right edge of the first strip as shown in the picture below and draw a chalk line.  Use a couple of pins to hold in place and sew across the chalk line.  Cut off the corner leaving a ¼” seam.  Attach the third strip in the same manner.  Press the seams and then fold over one inch at one end of the binding and press.

Press the binding in half lengthwise with the wrong sides together.  Place the raw edge of the folded binding on the edge of the runner beginning with the folded end.  Begin in the middle of one of the long edges to avoid attaching the two ends of the binding near the corners.  Start sewing about three inches from the beginning of the binding.  Sew the binding 1/4" from the edge.  Stop sewing 1/4" from the corner and back stitch.  Cut the thread.  Pull the binding up to the corner and then fold binding over and down the side so the top and side edges align.  Hold or pin in place.  Start sewing again at the corner and sew down to 1/4" from the next corner and repeat the process.  Continue in this manner until you get about three inches from the beginning of the binding.  Lap the edge over and trim off the excess binding.  Leave about 1 1/2".   Tuck the end of the binding into the fold of the beginning.  Continue sewing to attach the rest of the binding. 

Before attaching the binding, I suggest you view American Patchwork & Quilting's video, "Binding Your Project".  This video explains how to bind a project using the method I tried to explain in the above paragraph.  The video is clear and easy to understand.  Go to  and search for "Binding Your Project".   

After attaching the binding to the front of the table runner, pull the binding to the back side and hand stitch to the back piece.

Your table runner is now complete.

I hope all of you are staying safe and healthy.  Have fun sewing!


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Diversion from Worrying about Coronavirus (Covid19)

Most Americans are now “hunkered down” trying to avoid the Coronavirus (Covid19).  The problem is what to do while you are mostly confined to your home.  I know there is always laundry, cooking, and housecleaning, but most of us need a diversion from these activities at least once in a while, especially if you don’t have small children to “entertain” you!  And even if you do, you still need a diversion, maybe during the children’s nap time.  My diversion is sewing.

I know there are lots of you who haven’t sewn in years and may not know where to start.  First, get out your sewing machine and give it a test drive.  It will probably need a good cleaning and oiling (for mechanical machines) if you haven’t used it for a while.  If it needs more than you can do, call someone who repairs machines and make an appointment.  During this crisis, some quilt shops will come out to your car to get your machine and return it to your car when you go to pick it up.  If you need sewing supplies, you can call them and they will get the supplies together for you and mail them or you can pick them up.  I think more businesses are taking this approach to help their customers during this crisis. 

I am going to post a series of easy, small projects to sew that I hope will pique your interest in sewing again.  Sewing is relaxing and may take your mind off the current situation at least for a while.  It also exercises the brain because you are constantly making decisions and solving problems.  These projects will probably not require a pattern and only a small amount of fabric. 

The first project is a potholder.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have problems with sewing on bias tape, so this first potholder does not require the use of bias tape.  It is self- bound.  

The supplies you need are listed below.  These are in addition to a sewing machine, scissors, thread and a rotary cutter (optional, you could use scissors).

1 – 10” piece of 100% cotton for the back piece
1 -    8” piece of 100% cotton for the front piece
1 -    8” piece of 100% cotton batting
1 -    8” piece of insulated batting such as Insul-Bright

With the 10” back piece wrong side up, center the piece of cotton batting and the piece of insulated batting on the back piece.  Then place the front piece on top of these three pieces with the right side up.  Use a couple of pins to hold the four pieces in place.  Then quilt them together by stitching rows about 1 ½ inches apart. 

Place a ruler on one corner of the front piece and measure out ½ inch.  The use your rotary cutter to cut off the ½ inch at the corner.  Make sure when you measure the ½ inch, the opposite end of your ruler goes through the opposite corner at the same spot.  This will ensure each corner is measured accurately and will be cut at the same angle.

Next, fold up the ½ inch until it just touches the corner of the front piece.  Then press.  Repeat process for all four corners. 

Press ¼ inch up on two opposite sides of the back piece.  Then fold the back piece over the front piece.  Use clips or pins to hold in place and stitch close the edge.

 Next press ¼ inch up on the remaining opposite sides.  Fold the back piece over the front and stitch in place.  When you come to the corners, one side should just barely cover the other.  You can stitch down the corners, if desired.

Your potholder is complete.  The more you do, the better you get at turning up the edges and making the corners meet.  These make quick and economical gifts for bridal showers, Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions. 

If you haven’t used your sewing machine in a while, I hope you will get it out and make a few potholders or some other project you have in mind.  Stay safe and healthy!


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Great Cape Copy

Have you ever seen a garment and knew immediately you wanted one like it?  I saw our niece wearing a grey wool cape a while ago and was struck with how great it looked.  It fit her really well.  It was not loose and baggy, but looked fitted as though it was made especially for her.  She offered to loan it to me to use to make a pattern.  I decided to give it a try.  I know people frequently use a garment to make a pattern, but I have never tried it. 

I knew I could not simply trace the cape and add seam allowances.  After all, I am not the same size as the owner of the cape!  My cape would need to be much larger.  I hoped I could accomplish that and yet keep the well-fitted look of the original cape.  I just guessed at how much larger to make the cape.  I added several inches to it and added the seam allowances.  I used muslin to make a mock-up to test the general fit of the cape.  I basted a zipper down the front so I could test the fit.  My first attempt appeared to be successful.

Next, I took a good look at the original cape to try to figure out how to duplicate some of the special features of the cape.  It was made by Guess. The first feature I examined was the epaulets on the shoulders.  I think the reason the cape has that “fitted” look is because the epaulets identify the shoulder areas.  The close to the body fitting of the cape is partially achieved with elastic insets at the waist in the front and back.  It draws the cape in just enough to give it a fitted silhouette.   The cape is held together under the arms by attaching tabs with snaps to the back and the fronts where the elastic ends at the sides.   It has vertical welt pockets with one wide welt.  The cape also has a collar stand and a collar.  I decided to incorporate most of these features in my cape.   

I decided not to incorporate the hidden zipper on the front.  It is covered with a facing that snaps down over the zipper.  I decided against this feature and used an exposed zipper instead.  My reasoning was simple.  The exposed zipper would be easier and less time consuming.  Also, if I had used the snaps, they would need to be installed into part of the zipper facing and I don’t have the equipment to make an installation like that look professional.  I could have made the facing that covers the zipper wider and avoided the zipper facing, but I chose to just avoid the facing altogether.  I also decided not to add the epaulets.  I thought the epaulets might draw attention to my sloping shoulders and the cut of the cape provides some shaping at the shoulders. 

It took longer than I anticipated to make the cape.  After copying the basic shape of the cape, I had to draft a collar and a stand.  I turned to Helen Joseph Armstrong’s book, Patternmaking for Fashion Design to learn how to draft both of these items.  She also had instructions for drafting the two pieces as one.  I went for that option.  It was quicker to sew one piece than two.   It was also important to make decisions as to the logical order to sew each part of the cape.  The order made a big difference.  For example, after I sewed the zipper in the front of the cape, I discovered I needed to insert the front facings at the same time I inserted the zipper.  So, I had to rip out the zipper and start over.

I realized I would have to insert the elastic casings on the fronts and the back after I added the lining.  I struggled with how to do this.  I sewed the lining down the front openings and around the outside of the cape.  I left openings on both fronts and the sides of the cape to insert elastic.  It was not easy, but I got it done only to be extremely disappointed with the outcome.  The look was   not flattering on my body and, even worse, the elastic was angled downward close to the arms.  I ripped the elastic out several times and resewed it.  Each time it looked a little better, but in the end, I did not like the look.  So, I ripped all the elastic out and decided to finish the cape without that detail!

After sewing the lining around the neckline facing, my cape was finally done.  Upon examining my cape, there are two things I wish I had done differently.  I wish I had made the welts on the pockets out of a solid black fabric because they blend into the coat and are not seen.  Also, I wish I had put the pockets a little higher up on the cape.  They are just a little low when I insert my hands.  Lessons learned!

I am still pleased with the cape.  It is something I will wear in the Spring and Fall.  I believe this was a good sewing project for me.  It gave me the experience of trying to copy a garment to a different size and trying to decide in which order to sew each piece. I think if I really want to try to insert the elastic again, I could test it by basting the casings to the lining, insert the elastic and then decide if I like it or not.  If I don’t, it will be easy to remove.

Below are pictures of the completed cape and pictures of the original Guess cape.

Inside tabs used to hold fronts and back together.

Front of Guess Cape

Back of Guess Cape 
Thank you, Gayle Churches, for allowing me to borrow your cape!

Judy Huhn