Category Archives: Straight Stitch

The Straight Stitch – What to do with extra fabric?

Dear Keep it Thimble,

I inherited an armful of fabric from a local quilter who passed away and it has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. She had a tendency toward traditional fabrics and patterns; I don’t share that. I don’t know what to do with this. Keep it until I find a use for it?  give it away? I am afraid that the minute I give it away I will find a use for it. And I feel badly since this fabric was a gift from her husband, who wanted other quilters to have it.

But I have little storage space and this stuff is taking up badly needed space…I favor bright colors, batiks, polka dots, not flowers.  Any suggestions?

Susan

What should I do with extra/unwanted fabric?

Hi Susan,

Thanks for writing.  If you haven’t found a use for it yet, and you know you don’t really care for it, it’s unlikely you will find something to do with it in the next few years.  Since it sounds like you can use the space, you want to explore ways you can either give away the fabric with a clear conscience, or at least swap it out for fabric that is more to your liking.

One idea would be have a fabric swap where you invite some friends over to swap out pieces from your stash.  This doesn’t solve the storage issue, but maybe it will make it easier to part with the fabric that you aren’t too crazy about and be assured that this fabric is going home with someone who wants it and has a plan for it.

Another idea is to use the fabric to sew up some quilt for charity.   There are always organizations that can use these quilts and this might be a nice use for the fabric since you don’t plan to use it for personal projects.  Here’s a link to a list of charities you can check out:

http://www.quiltersworld.com/makeadifference.php

You could also donate the fabric to a local quilt guild.  They can use it to make quilts for charity and will make sure it gets put to good use.    Another option, less altruistic, is to have a quilter’s yard sale to get rid of the fabric.  I’ve done this twice in the past and have had great success.  Depending on the quality and age of the fabric, you could get $2 – $5 yard, which can add up quickly.

Hope this helps.  Keep it thimble!

Heather

 

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!

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!