Category Archives: Sewing

A Little Inspiration….

Wow, the summer is almost gone and I still have so much I wanted to accomplish.   However, I had a great summer so I’m not complaining.  I promise to get back to more regular posts this fall.  Everyone deserves a summer break, don’t they?

In order to get inspired for writing up some new patterns and tutorials, I decided I needed a little inspiration.  The sewing room is looking a bit drab because I haven’t made the curtains yet (which will be in a very vintage and cheery looking Minnick and Simpson fabric).  So I decided to create a sewing machine cozy!

Sewing Machine Cozy

The tutorial is from Strawberry Patches and I figured this would be the best way to bring in a dash of cheer and inspiration to the room.  Once the cover was completed, it seemed like it was missing something, so I decided to applique my favorite sewing slogan on it – and voila! –  a constant and fun reminder of how to approach life.

For the applique, I used Steam a Seam 2, which is double-sided fusible web.  I cut out the letters, fused them on, and then did a basic zigzag stitch around the edges to hold them in place.   I love how it turned out!

Keep it Thimble!

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A Tale of Three Professional Totes

June has been a busy month for me, so the blogging has taken a backseat to my real world job.  However, I have been busy sewing – which is great!  Regular readers will know how much I love the Professional Tote pattern by Creative Thimble.  I have made a lot of these totes and I truly consider it to be the perfect bag!

Professional Tote – California Girl Fabrics

My son finished school about two weeks ago and I wanted to make a special gift for his teachers.  The Professional Tote immediately came to mind.  I knew that one teacher liked green and the other blue, and that they seemed to favor more modern prints, which lead me to select fabrics from California Girl (designed by Fig Tree) and Ruby (designed by Bonnie and Camillle) for their bags.

Professional Tote – Ruby Fabrics

I loved the fabrics so much, I decided to make one for myself too.  Even though I have made this pattern a ton, I only have one professional tote that I use (for the beach).  and it would be nice to have one for work purposes.  The center zippered divider is the perfect size for carrying my iPad.

Professional Tote – Ruby Fabrics

Needless to say, while I did have all the supplies bought well in advance, I didn’t actually cut them out and sew them together until two days before.  However, the sewing goes pretty fast since I am so familiar with the pattern.  Of course, mine (the gray one) was put on hold until the following weekend so that I could get finish the ones for the teachers.  I took them in at lunch on the last day, and I could tell the teachers were thrilled with them – and that always feel good when people like your work!

What gifts have you made that really hit the mark?

Keep it Thimble!

Tutorial – A Triple Threat – Teacher Gift, Tissue Holder, Stashbuster

School will be out in 15 days (!), and it’s time to think about end of the year teacher gifts.    Teachers always appreciate a gift card, but it’s also nice to make them a little something just so the gift is more personal.  I was trying to think of something fun and easy, since my son has lots of teachers, and then I remembered the good old travel tissue holder!  You can tuck the gift card in the opening, tie a pretty bow around it, and it is the perfect teacher gift.

Tissue Covers

There are a lot of tutorials online on how to make these, so I figured it would be fun to share some of them with you and show you my finished results.  For mine, I used a tutorial posted at Melinda’s Quilts, ETC (http://melinful.blogspot.com/2010/01/travel-tissue-cover-tutorial.html).  The reason I liked this one is because it just uses two pieces of fabric (exterior and lining) and is sewn in a way that makes its own trim on the edges of the opening.  It literally took me 10 minutes to cut out the fabric and sew it together.

Press Seam Open

After sewing the tube, I used my point presser and centered the seam on the top part so that the seam could be pressed open (see above).

Pinked Raw Edges

In addition, the raw edges were cut with pinking shears to prevent them from raveling.  This gives nice finished edge and you don’t have to mess with bias tape.

Back of Tissue Holder – Fussy Cut

Lastly, on one of the covers I fussy cut the fabric so that the floral motif was centered on the back of the tissue holder.   Also, these are great stashbusters – you only need 2 scraps of fabric less than 8″ square for each one (and a packet of travel tissues from Target).

Here are some links to some other tutorials:

  1. Sew Much 2 Luv has a fun tutorial that uses 4 scraps of fabrics.
  2. The Distracted Domestic has a tutorial that is a variant on the method Sew Much 2 Luv uses – but it uses just one strip of fabric.
  3. Whimwham at Craftstylish posted a tutorial that shows you how to add some fancy machine embroidery on the front.  This is a great way to personalize the gift.
  4. Craftapalooza at Whipup discusses her LAB technique for making these.  She uses trim around the opening for a nice contrast.

What are your ideas for teacher gifts?  I’m always on the hunt for more fun and easy projects.

Keep it Thimble!

The Straight Stitch – Which Sewing Machine Should I Buy?

Dear Heather,

Please help! Sewing machines…I keep thinking about buying one. Any suggestions on a good beginner one? It’s hard to know where to start!

Signed,
On Pins and Needles

I know just the machine you want – the Bernette by Bernina. Check out www.mybernette.com for a full list of the machines in this line (and just for the record, I am not affiliated with Bernina in any way). For my first machine, I had the Bernette 55 – a very basic machine that had 15 or so stitches, a buttonholer, and the basic feet and accessories.

My First Professional Tote

I knew my Bernette was made of sturdy stuff when I was able to sew through 4 layers of fabric + 4 layers of interfacing + cotton webbing when I made my first Professional Tote! The Bernette is not made in Switzerland (I think it is manufactured in China), but Bernina selected it for their beginner’s line since it meets their quality standards.

The differences between the models comes down to how many stitch choices you have, how the buttonhole function works (automatic or manual), and if everything is computerized or manual (such as changing the stitch length, needle position, etc). The more expensive ones might have a few more features such as being able to drop the feeddogs (only important if you are going to do free motion quilting). They range in price from $249 – $799. Many times you can even find a special deal for the basic machine for $199.

I definitely feel it is better to spend about $250 on a Bernette instead of buying something at a large retail chain store. In my experience, the machines at these stores are not as sturdy, powerful, or smooth as the Bernette. The one thing about Bernette is that you have to buy one at an authorized Bernina dealer. You can check on their website to find a dealer near you. The nice thing about this is that the dealer will teach you the basics of using the machine (ie, how to thread it, wind the bobbin, change stitches, and use the buttonhole).

My Bernette is a work horse and I love sewing on it. I use this machine for my classes since it more portable than my “fancy” machine. It’s also good for children and I plan to let my son use it when he wants to learn how to use the machine :).

Keep it Thimble!

The Easter Bunny Came Early!

Last week, my husband discovered a nest of baby rabbits in our back yard!  They grow pretty quickly and recently were big enough to leave the nest.   It was hard to get a good picture of them since we didn’t want to disturb them.  The mama rabbit would come by in the evenings to check on and feed her two little bunnies.  They are so cute and we were sad to see them go, but maybe they will come back to say “hello” on Easter.

Baby Rabbits!

Speaking of Easter, you probably have everything you need for your baskets, but if you are looking for a fun and quick project, click HERE for my tutorial on how to make a Sock Bunny!  I made these last year was very pleased with the results.  If you have time, you can also make a colorful vest, dress, or bonnet for your rabbit.

Sock Rabbit (aka Bunny)

Keep it Thimble!

Barcelona Day 1 – Quilt Shop Tour and Other Sites


Samples in Dona Quilt Shop

I’m back from my trip to…. Barcelona!  Work was the primary reason for going, but I managed to have two whole days of sightseeing.  I walked from one end of the city to the other and had a great time looking at all the beautiful parks, buildings, churches, and quilt shops!  Yes, that’s right, Barcelona is home to at least 12 quilt shops (more if you count stores outside the city center) and my plan was to visit all of them.  This website –  www.cosman.nl – lists quilt shops in Europe and I used this to generate an itinerary.  Since I have so much to tell about my trip, I will split this into two posts – one today and one tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

Mouth-watering Gelato!

First, a brief word about the food, specifically the treats!  I am not a huge foodie, but I do love cakes, candy, and ice cream.  Barcelona does not disappoint, you can find some type of candy store, gelato parlor, or bakery on every corner!  The treats are arranged in eye catching ways and you can’t wake by too many of them without eventually being tempted to stop and indulge.

Bakery Near Hotel

Bakery Near Hotel

This bakery was next to my hotel and I stopped in each evening to pick up a little something to enjoy before going to bed.  Meringue is very popular there and it is usually dipped in chocolate or flavored with some type of fruit.

Delicious Candy!

My first chance at sightseeing was on Friday night.  I was done with my business and had an evening to my self.  I wandered around the Gothic and Las Ramblas districts since they were close to my hotel.  I stumbled upon a chamber orchestra practicing Vivaldi’s Four Season in a beautiful cathedral.  They were giving a proper concert later that night, but the rehearsal was open and it sounded as beautiful as an actual concert.

Concert rehearsal in cathedral

When I walked out of the cathedral, I found myself in the middle of festive processional.  The procession was headed by these large figurines – they are basically large puppets and someone gets inside the base and navigates the figure.  A children’s band plays music and they throw out candy to the spectators! I followed them for a few minutes and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Festive Procession in Gothic Quarter

Saturday was the day earmarked for the whirlwind quiltshop tour.  Unfortunately, due to jet lag I didn’t start until about 11am, which was a problem since on Saturdays many of these shops close at 2pm!  I did manage to visit a few shops – Nunoya, Fet a Ma, and Lola Botona, but not see as many as I would have liked.

Lola Botona Quilt Shop

I am most disappointed I didn’t get to go inside Dona as this was the largest by far and the display windows (see picture above) were packed with projects and ideas.

Dona Storefront

This picture on BCN Patchwork’s gate is adorable.  Too bad this is the only thing I could see!

BCN Patchwork Storefront

However, from the few shops I visited, it was obvious that things were way out of my price range.  Basically, these shops have the same fabric available in the states – Moda, Robert Kaufman, Batiks, etc. but it is $25 a yard, versus the $10 – $12 a yard!  They also have the same books — but again, these are priced at least double.  There was a very simple pincushion pattern that would sell for $5 here, but cost $20.   The shops had lots of attractive samples and I got a few ideas (you can’t take pictures in the shops so I have to rely on my memory).  So for all my friends who wanted me to get you some fabric while on my trip, I am sorry to say I came back empty handed.  However how about we hit up the local quilt shops and buy it for half price :)?

Baghangers Barcelona - House Purse

I did find one unexpected surprise, a purse shop called “Baghangers Barcelona.”  This was a small shop packed with lots of novelty purse made out of leather.  They had a pumpkin, tomato, Noah’s Ark, porcupine, and tons of other clever purses.

Porcupine and Owl Purses

Since I didn’t buy any fabric, I splurged and purchased a Mushroom House purse.  I couldn’t resist how cute and colorful it was!

Mushroom Purse from Baghangers Barcelona

Well, that’s the end of Day One!  Check back tomorrow for Day Two which features my trip to the Zoo!

Keep it thimble!

Tutorial – Pretty Patchwork Heart Pocket

Looking for a quick gift or a fun home dec idea?  Here’s a set of Pretty Patchwork Heart Pockets that can be sewn together in about an hour.  This tutorial includes directions for making both versions!

Pretty Patchwork Heart Pockets

Make a bunch of these and place in a pretty basket or bowl.  Use clothespins to attach them to ribbon and create a fun garland or window swag!

Pretty Patchwork Heart Pocket - Version 1

You can use scraps for this and make them in a variety of colors – red and white for Valentine’s Day, green and white for St. Patrick’s Day, red/white/blue for Fourth of July, orange and black for Halloween, or red and green for Christmas!

Pretty Patchwork Heart Pocket - Version 2

The back features a small pocket.  Tuck in a gift card or some dried flowers.

Pretty Patchwork Heart Pocket - Back View

From Fabric A cut:

  • Three 4.5″ squares
  • One 5.5″ Square
  • One 3.5″ x 2.5″ rectangle

From Fabric B cut:

  • Three 4.5″ squares
  • One 5.5″ Square
  • One 3.5″ x 2.5″ rectangle
Take one Fabric A 4.5″ square and one Fabric B 4.5″ square.  Pin the squares right sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam on the right and left sides.  Make two sets (Figure 1).

Figure 1 - Sew Side Seams

Cut these units into three rectangles that are 1.5″ x 4.5″.  Make sure you are cutting parallel to the seams you just made (Figure 2).  Do this for both sets.

Figure 2 - Cut Into Strips

Press the seams towards the darkest fabric to create two pieced units (Figure 3).

Figure 3 - Press open

Take the center rectangles and sew them to the appropriate side of the pieced units (Figure 4).  Press the seams to the darks.  You now have two units of alternating fabrics (A-B-A and B-A-B). Make two sets.

Figure 4 - Sew Strips to Create Squares

Take one of each type of square  (A-B-A and B-A-B), make sure stripes are going the same direction, and pin them right sides together.  Sew along the shorter sides with a 1/4″ seam.  Do this for both sets.  Cut each set into three rectangles that are 1.5″ x 4.5″.    You will be cutting perpendicularly to the stripes (Figure 5).  Press the seams.

Figure 5 - Sew Side Seams and Cut Into Strips

Sew the center strip to the appropriate pieced unit to make TWO nine-patch blocks (Figure 6).  Do not sew the other strips to make blocks.  You will now two nine-patch blocks and two sets of partial blocks.

Figure 6 - Sew Two Nine Patch Blocks

To make Version 1, sew the partial blocks onto one nine patch block (Figure 7).

Figure 7 - Create Version 1 Heart

Take make Version 2, sew the 3.5″ x 2.5″ rectangles onto one nine patch block (Figure 8).

Figure 8 - Create Heart Version 2

Set these two heart fronts aside and make the pocket.  Take the remaining two of the 4.5″ squares, and press it on the diagonal right sides OUT (Figure 9).

Figure 9 - Make Pocket

Take one of the 5.5″ squares, place it right side up, and then pin one of the folded triangles on this to make the pocket.  For best results, use contrasting pocket  on the backing fabric (Figure 10).

Figure 10 - Pin Backing to Pocket

Pin one heart front and one heart back right sides together (Figure 11).

Figure 11 - Pin Backing and Heart Right Sides Together

Download Heart Template here.  Trace onto piece of cardboard and cut out template.  In order to create sewing line, place template on pinned hearts and trace around it (Figure 12).  DO NOT CUT.  Sew around the line you just drew – leave a 3″ opening in one side for stuffing.

Figure 12 - Trace Around Heart Template

Cut off excess fabric and leave about 1/4″ seam.  Clip corner, curves, and heart center.  Turn inside out (Figure 13).  Stuff lightly and hand-stitch opening closed.

Figure 13 - Turn Inside Out and Press

Keep it thimble!

Stash Reduction Isn’t SO Bad – Is It?

What goes through your mind when someone says the words  “Stash Reduction”?  Do you get a sheepish look on your face and nod knowingly?  Do you cringe at the idea of actually using your beautiful fabrics? Does it mean nothing since you don’t have a stash or even know what one is?

My Fabric Stash - January 2011

For some reason, whenever I think about my stash, I get a twinge of guilt.  It does seem a bit … indulgent…to have more fabric in my possession than I can ever use in a lifetime.  When people come over to my house I am a bit shy about showing them my stash closet for fear I will be judged harshly.  However, most people obsessed with sewing understand where I am coming from and don’t judge me :).  In order to alleviate some of these guilty feelings, I sort through my stash once or twice a year and either sell or donate the fabric.  My goal is to not outgrow the current stash closet, because once that happens I will have TOO MUCH FABRIC.

Fat Quarter and Miscellaneous Stash - January 2011

There are many reasons that it’s hard to use the fabrics in your stash.  One, you never know if you will see that same bolt of fabric again, so you need to get a yard “just in case”.  Two, once you have the fabric in your stash, you have to find the perfect perfect project for it.  Three, when you start a new project, you need to buy more fabric because you don’t have anything in your stash you can use (this is similar to looking at a closet full of clothes and not having anything to wear).

This year, I am making a concerted effort at Stash Reduction with a two-pronged approach: first, I don’t plan to buy any new fabric in 2012* (gifts are fine), and second, I will get rid of at least 300 yards of my stash by using it, donating it, or selling it.  I have some projects in mind and I think I can do it – but it will be a challenge.

Stashbuster's Pledge (from http://www.patchworktimes.com)

Judy Laquidara at Patchwork Times created a Stashbuster Pledge in 2009.  While I’m not ready sign a formal pledge, I think this is a great idea.  Judy’s blog is very inspirational for people like me who hope to reduce their stash.  She does a weekly stash report that I plan to adopt (although my reports will be posted every 2 months – first one post at the end of February):

  • Used the last two months:
  • Used Year to Date:
  • Added in the last two Months:
  • Added Year to Date:
  • Net Used for 2012:

Do you think I am crazy for doing this?  Anyone want to jump on the band wagon and join me?  Any ideas for stashbuster projects? If so, please email me or post in the comments!

Finally, I am pleased to announce the debut of “The Straight Stitch”, an advice column for those to love to sew, embroider, craft, etc.  Please email me your questions and they will be answered!  Feel free to ask me anything, I’m here to help you Keep it Thimble!

*Exceptions: it is from the thrift store, on sale for $4 a yard or less, needed for binding or backing, or it is the only non-stash fabric needed to complete a project.

Three More Sewing Days Until Christmas!

Three (actually two and half) sewing days until Christmas!!  I am sure many of you are busily finishing up your hand crafted gifts so they are ready to be opened Christmas morning!  But, what if things aren’t going as planned and you find yourself in the same dilemma as my friend Jen:

Dear Keep It Thimble,
 
I’m guessing most people are experiencing what I am right now, which is last minute Xmas-freak-outs. I’m trying to decide if I should give up on some of my gifts. I had planned on making PJ pants for all the kids, and reversible totes for the girls.
 
So far, I have 1 and ¾ PJS done. The third pair is not even cut out yet. Here is the clincher: Thursday and Friday will be spent getting ready for Xmas – so there is no time to sew.  Do I have time to make 3 bags and 1+ jammies before then? What would you do?
 
–Jen, www.sewfun.com

Great question Jen, and I wanted to share this since I am sure many people are in the same boat.  I, like you, had grand plans to make all my Christmas gifts this year.  Last Friday, I came to the realization that I didn’t have time to get all my gifts finished.*   So, I baked homemade treats for my friends  and bought things from the store for my family (gasp).  In the meantime, I decided that birthdays are the best time to give someone a handmade gift.  That way you have more time to make each person something special and unique, and you don’t paint yourself in a corner and end up sewing like a maniac for 2 – 3 days (something you want to avoid at the holidays since there are other things that will need your attention).

In your case, I think you should try to finish up the PJs and then make the bags for either a birthday gift, or a New Year’s present.  If it is a New Year present, you can put a book or a calendar in there  – a new start for the year or something.

*Of course, it was my fault for procrastinating too much, and had I started them in September (as planned), things would have turned out differently.

Also, if you do find that you need to bake instead, here is a delicious (and easy fudge recipe):

Gum Drop Fudge - photo from Taste of Home

  • 1-1/2 pounds white candy coating, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped gumdrops

Directions

  • Line a 9-in. square pan with foil; set aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine the candy coating, milk and salt. Cook and stir over low heat until chips are melted. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and gumdrops.
  • Spread into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Using foil, remove fudge from the pan; cut into 1-in. squares. Store at room temperature. Yield: about 3 pounds.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 piece) equals 74 calories, 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 2 mg cholesterol, 11 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 0 fiber, trace protein.

Originally published as Gumdrop Fudge in Quick Cooking November/December 2002, p9

 

Have a great holiday and remember to Keep It Thimble!

Happy Halloween!!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween!  I really enjoyed eating all of my son’s candy, and look forward to sneaking more of it now that he is in bed.  We had a pretty rainy Halloween this year, so we ended up going to the mall for the main trick or treating.  Everyone did a double talk when they saw this mini-reaper walking amongst them.

The Grim Reaper is ready for your candy!

I didn’t get a picture (wish I had been faster), but there was one little girl (probably around 2) dressed up like a flower princess and she was quite taken with my son’s costume.  She kept smiling and laughing and wanted to come up and see his costume close-up.  She wasn’t scared at all!

Even the Grim Reaper is not above the seatbelt law!

This year’s costume was fairly easy to make, but I finished it at 3:30pm today – just in time to go get the candy.  I made his creepy black robe, and of course we bought the mask at the store.  He was really pleased with his costume and how scary he looked!

Looking for a nice sidekick.

Keep it thimble!