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Sewing 101: Part 2

Sewing 101: Part 2

Did you get your sewing machines out and ready for this week with Kim? I know I did. If you missed part 1 from last week go check it out!

Now on with Kim’s lesson and rad coaster tutorial…

-Sara

P.S. Here’s Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

Hello! Kim here again, from Retro Mama, continuing with the second installment of introductory sewing lessons here at Craft Snob. Last week we chatted about sewing tool essentials, and this week’s topics include a mini-glossary of sewing machine stitches, some tips I wish I had known about when I first started out, hints for straight lines and corners, and finally, my first project tutorial of the series!

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Some common stitches and what they are used for:

  • Backstitch: a couple of extra stitches back and forth at the beginning or ending of a seam to keep the stitches from unraveling
  • Straight stitch: most common type of stitch, used for sewing 2 pieces of fabric together, and also for topstitching and quilting
  • Topstitching: can be a straight stitch or decorative stitch, and is used to create a finished edge
  • Triple stitch: a very durable reinforcing stitch I frequently use when making bags and stuffed toys, creates a straight stitch that is reinforced 2 times
  • Zig zag stitch: decorative, appliqué, finishing edges of seam allowances to help prevent fraying

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My Basic Sewing Tips (a.k.a. A few handy suggstions that might save you a headache or two)

  • Always backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. This means: sew a couple of stitches forward, a couple of stitches backward, and then go ahead and sew the seam as desired. This prevents the thread from unraveling at the ends of the seam.
  • Press, press, press your fabric. Before you cut. Before you sew. After you sew. You will have much more accurate and neat results when you are working with unwrinkled fabric. Always make sure to use the proper heat setting so you don’t melt something to your iron, and used distilled water in your iron so you don’t get mineral buildup.
  • If your machine is constantly tangling up threads, skipping stitches, or otherwise having a fit, the first thing you should try (after removing the tangled threads and making sure there are no stray threads under your needle plate) is to put in a fresh sewing needle and rethread the machine. A dull needle will wreak all sorts of havoc, trust me!
  • Do not sew over straight pins. Your pins will get bent and your needle can be ruined if you happen to land directly on a pin. I remove the pins right before I sew over that area. Also, if using pins with plastic heads, be very careful when ironing as the heads will melt if they touch the hot iron.
  • Trim your needle and bobbin threads whenever you finish a seam (trim close to your project, and leave a few inches of thread hanging from the machine) so they don’t get pulled into your machine or tangled up with your next seam.

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Are you ready to sew? I thought you might be… I’ve whipped up a little worksheet for you to practice straight lines and corners, you can get the PDF here. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam! Go ahead and sew right on the paper, but don’t use that needle on fabric afterward as it will become dull from the paper.

Tips for straight lines:

  • Only sew as fast as you are comfortable with. With more experience, higher speeds will become more comfortable.
  • You should not need to push fabric through the machine while sewing. That’s what the feed dogs are for! Keep your hands relaxed and guide the fabric along the seam allowance line. (If you are sewing with paper, however, you might need to gently push the paper along because it is so slippery)

Tips for turning corners:

  • The key is to land your needle in the down position exactly on the corner so that when you turn the fabric, the edge of the fabric will match up again with the seam allowance guide. In reality, it doesn’t always work out this way on the first try (or the second), but it will get easier with practice. Either reverse the knob on the side of your machine to take up the last stitch you made if you went too far the first time, or go back and add a stitch or two so your needle will land right on the corner before you turn.
  • If you are having a really tough time judging where to turn the corners, try placing dots on the corners with water soluble or disappearing fabric ink. With experience, you’ll get better at knowing just where to turn!

Seam Allowance:

  • Those little lines on the needle plate of your machine are seam allowance guides. Line up the edge of the fabric with the appropriate guide line (when your needle is in the center position) while you sew.
  • Quilting seam allowance is typically 1/4”, which is probably not one of the seam allowance lines on your machine. A couple of options to obtain an accurate 1/4” seam allowance are: A) use a quilting 1/4” presser foot, or B) with a regular presser foot, line up the fabric with the right edge of the presser foot, and adjust the needle position by moving it right or left with your machine controls (mine has button controls that move the needle to the right or left), until it is 1/4” from the edge of the fabric (use a ruler to determine the setting on your machine).

Now I know you’re dying to try out your straight lines and corners on some real fabric, so I’ve put together a tutorial for you:

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Fair and Square Patchwork Coasters

Materials:

  • Fabric scraps or charm squares for patchwork Linen
  • Solid colored cotton or twill
  • Shot cotton or other fabric for surrounding fabric and coaster backing (1/4 yard, or a fat quarter)
  • Cotton quilt batting (a small crib-sized package will leave lots left over for other projects, or you could have 1/4 yard cut from a roll)
  • Thread

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Quilting ruler or quilter’s square
  • Rotary cutter
  • Scissors
  • Chopstick or point turner
  • Iron and ironing board

Instructions:

1. Play with fabric! Choose several prints to use for your coasters. I kept it simple and stuck with a red and blue theme.

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2. Cut your prints into rectangles. Each rectangle should be 2-1/2” wide, but the height can vary. I cut the rectangles between 1-1/2” to 2-1/4” tall. You will need about 4 rectangles per coaster.

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3. Pick some rectangles for your first coaster and line them up in the order you wish. Try to make the pieces add up to at least 6-1/2” tall before they are sewn together, because you will lose some height in the seam allowances and you need the final height to be 4-1/2” tall.

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4. Place piece A on top of piece B, right sides together (the sides of the fabric that are printed are the right sides), matching the 2-1/2” wide sides. Sew along the 2-1/2” wide side to connect the pieces, with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

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5. Open up your pieces and press the seam allowance to one side with your iron.

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6. Continue sewing rectangles C and D together so they make one strip. You want your final strip to be 2” wide by 4-1/2” tall. If your strip is too tall, don’t worry, just go ahead and trim it. If it is too short, remove the top or bottom rectangle with a seam ripper and sew on a new rectangle that is taller. When your strip is the right height, then trim 1/2” from the width.

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7. Cut a strip from your linen or other backing fabric that is 1-1/2” wide by 4-1/2” tall. Sew it to the left side of your patchwork strip, right sides together, and long sides together, and using a 1/4” seam allowance.

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8. Press the fabric open.

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9. Cut a strip from your linen or other backing fabric that is 2-1/2” wide by 4-1/2” tall to the right side of your patchwork strip, right sides together, and long sides together. Press open.

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10. Using a quilter’s square or other ruler and rotary cutter, trim your patchwork piece into a 4-1/2” square.

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11. Cut a piece of batting into a 4-1/2” x 4-1/2” square. Place your patchwork square on top the batting.

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12. Keeping the batting and patchwork together, topstitch (straight stitch) on the linen, very close to the edge where it meets the patchwork. I lined up the edge of the linen with the inside edge of my presser foot (see arrow in photo). I also used a slightly longer than usual stitch length (3.0 on my machine).

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13. Repeat the topstitching on the other side of the patchwork.

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14. Cut a 4-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ square from your backing fabric (I used linen). Place the backing fabric on top of the patchwork piece, right sides together.

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15. Pin together. Sew around the outside edge of the coaster, starting at the bottom black dot, going around the outside, and then stopping at the black dot above. This will leave about 2” unsewn. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam!

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16. Clip the edges of the coaster close to the seam, but be careful not to snip the stitching.

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17. I went ahead and trimmed a little bit of extra fabric around the corners, to reduce the bulkiness even further.

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18. Open up the top layer of linen and turn the coaster right side out.

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19. Use your chopstick or point turner to gently push out the corners. Don’t stretch the fabric!

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20. Carefully tuck in the unsewn edges of your coaster to create a straight edge and iron the coaster flat. This step is very important!

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21. Topstitch all the way around your coaster, very close to the edge (remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam so it won’t unravel!). If your machine has a little trouble getting going on the corners, use the tip of your chopstick to gently push the fabric under the presser foot as you sew.

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22. Repeat as many times as you wish to make your set of coasters!

Happy Sewing, and see you next week!

Kim

Snobbish Delights

Heart of Light

I wish I'd thought of birdies for my kids' room.

I'm gonna have to give this headband a try by Heart of Light.

What a great gift packaging idea for crafters. And it's printable!

This tart looks like it can convert me to loving lemon.

Petite Paper Posies

Petite Paper Posies

This paper daisy project spurred me on to make these petite paper posies.  Besides, I had brads left over from a journal project begging to be used.

Materials:

  • Scissors
  • Decorative paper
  • Brads
  • Thick needle or something else sharp

Start with a 4" diameter circular paper cut out.  Cut the paper to create spokes. Make sure the spokes are wide enough to fit the brad through. Flip the circle over. Fold back all the spokes.

Puncture the center with a hefty needle or other sharp object. Make sure to puncture every spoke. Remove the needle and insert the brad. Flatten the back of the brad.

If you don't have brads, you can just glue each spoke down. Add a button to the top.

The Real Deal: Is cost less than $0.50 to make one posey.

Sewing 101: Part 1

Sewing 101: Part 1

Oh… am I ever so happy to introduce Kim from Retro Mama to you. For the next four Mondays, she’ll be teaching Craft Snob’s fresh petite series’ on Sewing 101.

Peek, snoop or loiter around her retro pattern shop and gobble up a few of these cuties…

- Sara

P.S. Here’s Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Hi everyone! I’m Kim from Retro Mama, and I was so excited when Sara asked me to do a series of introductory sewing lessons here at Craft Snob. I love teaching and I love sewing, so this is right up my alley! Today I’m going to start off with the very basics including a short discussion on sewing machines, then talk a bit about the types of tools you need, and end on one of my favorite topics: fabric. My future posts will get into the nitty gritty details of the actual sewing, and we’ll practice your new skills with some fun project tutorials.

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The Sewing Machine

First off, you don’t need a fancy or expensive machine to have a blast sewing and to be able to do a ton of techniques with great results. My suggestions for things to look for in your first sewing machine are: a top-load bobbin with a see through window, multiple stitch functions including (but not necessarily limited to) zig-zag, triple stitch and stretch stitch, adjustable sewing speed and stitch length, adjustable needle position, and a free arm (which lets you sew circular items like the topstitching on a handbag). If you plan to make lots of clothes, you’ll probably want your machine to have buttonhole stitches as well. You might want to check out the sewing machine reviews here (you’ll need to register, but they won’t spam you). Read your sewing machine manual thoroughly to get familiarized with how to operate and maintain your machine, and to learn about the features particular to your machine. Also consider taking a class or two to learn how to wind a bobbin, thread and fire up your machine.

Presser Feet

Many machines come with several basic presser feet, but you may need to purchase additional feet if they aren’t already included (yours may look a little different from my photo, as presser feet do vary some by manufacturer). These are my most used presser feet:

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  • A. General purpose foot: I use this foot most of the time; it works great for single stitch, triple stitch, and a regular zig zag stitch (I will go into more detail about different types of stitches in my next post).
  • B. Zig-zag/embroidery foot: I think of this as my appliqué foot. The bottom is see-through to allow you to have greater visibility and control when using a tight zig-zag stitch to go around appliqués.
  • C. Zipper foot: I use this foot for installing zippers and also any time I need to sew really close to the edge of fabric because it gives you a good view of the fabric beneath the foot.
  • D. Walking foot/even feed foot: For quilting, this foot has its own set of feed dogs to help the top and bottom layers of fabric to travel at the same speed through the machine. You’ll want to use this foot any time you use batting in your project.

Sewing Machine Needles

For the purpose of these introductory lessons, we will be using sharp/regular point needles. When working with woven fabric (e.g. quilting cotton, or other fabrics that aren’t stretchy), use a sharp needle (80/12 universal regular point for lightweight fabrics and quilting cotton, or 90/14 universal regular point for slightly heavier fabrics or when sewing through several layers). Ball point needles are for knit fabrics only.

Thread

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Thread is a little bit of a tricky subject as many folks tend to be very loyal to one brand and swear that all other threads are junk. For most projects, I think Coats & Clark 100% cotton thread or Guttermann threads (both can be found at most fabric shops) work great. You may find with experience that you prefer a particular brand; it’s worth experimenting to figure out what you like. A nice thread comparison can be found here.

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Essential Sewing Tools

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These are what I consider to be the most essential sewing tools. There are plenty of other tools and gadgets that you will discover as you learn more about sewing and techniques, but this list is a good start. I’m including links to online shops, but you should be able to find all of these items in your local stores as well:

  • A. Dressmaker’s Shears For cutting fabric around patterns. It is worth investing in a good pair of shears and embroidery scissors, below.
  • B. Embroidery Scissors. My go-to scissors for snipping threads and cutting right up next to a seam.
  • C. Flexible Tape Measure. Especially if you plan to make clothes.
  • D. A Chopstick. Yep, the utensil that helps you eat delicious food will also be your best friend when it comes to pushing out those corners or curves when turning your project right side out, and for putting polyfill into your stuffed creations. I have several with different sized tips and blunt ends (and my husband is probably still looking for their mates, shhh!). You can also purchase a point turner which is specifically designed for this purpose, though the handle isn’t quite as long.
  • E. Thimble. Either metal or leather, used for hand sewing, embroidery, and quilting.
  • F. Pinking Shears or pinking rotary cutter. The uneven edge helps to prevent fabric from fraying.
  • G. Rotary Cutter. Rotary cutters make life so much easier. The 45mm diameter cutters are terrific for long, straight cuts, the 28mm diameter cutters are helpful for curves. If you have little ones, I recommend buying a cutter that has a little button to lock the blade when it is retracted.
  • H. Magnetic pincushion. My favorite place to store straight pins. I keep threaded hand sewing needles in one of my plush pear pincushions. Straight pins. For pinning patterns to fabric or keeping two layers of fabric together while sewing.
  • I. Seam Ripper. I’d like to pretend I never need this tool, but of course there are occasions that it comes in handy. It lets you gently cut threads to remove seams if you happen to make a boo-boo.
  • J. Disappearing Fabric Ink Pen. For tracing and marking patterns. I can’t find a link to my exact pen. The purple ink becomes invisible as it dries, the blue ink disappears when you put water on it. White pencil or chalk is great for marking dark fabrics.
  • K. Self-healing cutting mat. These provide a great work surface, and I recommend getting the largest size that will fit on your table. The measurement grid often comes in very handy, and the mat will magically heal all those cuts into it while protecting your tabletop. Always store your cutting mat flat so it doesn’t warp.

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Quilter’s rulers. My most used sizes are: 6” x 24”, and 6” x 6” square, as well as a 12-1/2” x 12-1/2” square for quilting projects. Okay, I love my 3” x 18” too. You may find that you end up with a collection of different rulers over time as you purchase them for specific projects, but at the very minimum I recommend starting out with a 6” x 24” as it is very versatile. Rulers that are frosted on the back are less slippery on fabric. I store my rulers on a “ruler rack” which is essentially a block of wood with ruts cut into it for the rulers to rest on their sides. Lint roller. Yes, that is a lint roller next to my rulers. They are great for picking up stray lint and threads, so I like to always keep one handy. The rollers made for pet hair are extra sticky. iron and ironing board. I have a counter top ironing board that sits on top of a short bookcase. My tiny ironing board is all that I need for almost any project, and it takes up very little space. I use 2 store-bought covers on it (for extra padding), and though you can purchase expensive designer covers, I’ll forewarn you that you will be very sad when you accidentally fuse some interfacing to your beautiful cover or scorch it while making bias tape (not that I have ever done anything like that…okay, yes I have. Several times.).

Fabric 101

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My favorite fabric to work with is quilting cotton. It is wonderfully versatile, you can use it for bags, toys, clothes, housewares, accessories…and the variety of prints is endless. You can buy quilting cotton by the yard, or in precut packs such as charms (5” x 5” squares) or jelly rolls (2-1/2” x 44” strips). Precuts are offered by the fabric manufacturer Moda. If you plan to do smaller projects, or little patchwork projects, fat quarters (18” x 22”) are readily available at local quilt shops (LQS) and many online retailers, and are a great (and less expensive) way to stock your fabric stash than purchasing full yards. I am a bit particular about where I buy fabric, and recommend that you purchase fabric from your local quilt shop or online retailers. The quilting fabrics sold at chain fabric stores tend to be thinner and have lower thread counts, which will make a difference in the durability and softness of your finished projects.

I’m often asked where I buy my fabric, and the answer is: mostly online. Some of my favorite shops are listed below.

Phew! If you’re still with me, congratulations, and thank you! That’s a wrap for today. If you have any questions about today’s topics, please leave them in the comments and I’ll check in to answer them. I’ll be back next week, so be ready to rev up that sewing machine and start stitching!

Kim

Confessions of a Craft Snob

Confessions of a Craft Snob

  1. This is my craft room in all its glory.
  2. I have a love-hate relationship with steamed broccoli. I love it because my toddler willingly eats it. I hate it because it leaves my kitchen smelling more like the bathroom.
  3. I don't actually use half the crafts I make. Shameful I know… I made myself stand in the corner for this one. 

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