Posts Tagged sewing 101

Sewing 101: Part 4

Sewing 101: Part 4

Today is Part 4, the final post of the Sewing 101 Series, and Kim is going out with a bang! There’s so much juicy appliqué info in today’s lesson that will leave you falling in love with sewing.

-Sara

P.S. Here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Hi everyone! I can’t believe how fast the past 3 weeks have flown by–here we are at the final installment of the Sewing 101 series! We’ve covered sewing tools, sewing straight lines + corners, and curves in past lessons, and this week I’m going to introduce you to one of my favorite sewing techniques, appliqué.

When I first started sewing, I didn’t think that appliqué was a skill that I would use very often, but it turns out that I use some form of appliqué on almost everything I make!

What is appliqué? The general definition is an ornament that is applied to a different surface. In sewing, this typically means one fabric being attached to a different fabric.

Some examples of different styles of appliqué:

Satin stitched edge – machine stitched, satin stitch is a very tight zig-zag stitch that completely covers the edge of the appliqué

hi

Raw edge – machine or hand sewn, some examples include a straight stitch sewn just on the inside of the raw edge of the appliqué, a blanket stitch, or a zig-zag stitch that is looser and leaves some of the edge visible (Straight stitch on felt)

Pear Applique

(Hand sewn blanket stitch)

Four partridges

(Zig-zag edge)

Photobucket

Turned edge – the edges of the appliqué are turned under, and are often hand sewn, to hide the stitches

(Dresden plate applique: the tips of the plate are turned under, and I zig-zagged the edges, but you could also hand sew the appliqué to the backing fabric with a blind stitch)

Pink Birdseed Dresden Plate

If you are doing a raw edged or satin stitched appliqué, a good way to adhere your appliqué to the fabric is to use fusible web, which is a fiber that sticks to fabric when heated. Underneath the fabric you are appliquéing you will want to use a stabilizer to support the stitching you will do around the appliqué, especially when sewing by machine (I’ll show you how to use both of these materials in my tutorial below).

  • Fusible web: I mostly use Wonder Under paper backed fusible web, which is sticky on both sides, but there are several other brands and products for different uses.
  • Stabilizer: can be temporary, such as tear-away or wash-away, or permanent, such as cut away, or in the case of our project below, some type of interfacing. A nice article covering the different types of stabilizers can be found here
  • Interfacing: material that is sewn between two fabric layers, used to add rigidity and shape. Can be sew-in or fusible.

Since we haven’t covered it before, I wanted to take a moment to talk about zig-zag stitching. I often use a zig-zag stitch around the edge of applique pieces, and you may choose to use a zig-zag or satin stitch for the applique tutorial below, so here are a few of my zig-zag tips:

  • Determine the stitch length and how close the zig zag stitches are together by practicing on a scrap of fabric before you stitch on your project. Check your machine manual for how to adjust the stitches.
  • When zig-zag stitching, the needle moves back and forth from left to right. Start with the needle down on the outside of your appliqué piece, or just off the raw edge of your fabric, with the needle in the right sided position of the stitch.
  • Use the embroidery presser foot for greater visibility while sewing appliqué.

Let’s appliqué!

Cloudy Day Appliqué Tote Tutorial

Photobucket

(This tutorial shows you how to make a tote, but you could put this appliqué on anything, from pillow covers, to tea cozies, to quilts, you name it! Just remember to figure out what type of stabilizer you’ll need for the specific type of fabric you are putting the appliqué on.)

Materials

  • Fabric scraps (quilting cotton in various prints)
  • Linen, linen/cotton blend, or lightweight cotton twill in a solid color (1/2 yard; at least 50″ wide)
  • Quilting cotton for lining, solid color or print (1/2 yard, regular 42-44 inch width is fine)
  • Wonder Under paper backed fusible web, regular weight (1/4 yard)
  • Thread (cream or natural colored thread works great on natural linen)
  • Sheer weight or lightweight fusible interfacing (1 yard if it is 20 inches wide, 1/2 yard if it is wider than 26 inches)
  • Cloud and Raindrop templates

Tools

  • Iron and ironing board
  • Cutting surface
  • Rotary cutter and/or scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Seam ripper
  • Zig-zag/embroidery presser foot (optional, but handy if you have one)
  • Chopstick or point turner

Instructions <

Prepare the bag pieces

Photobucket

1. Cut one piece of linen, lining fabric, and fusible interfacing that are each 26″ x 11″.

2. Attach the interfacing to the wrong side of the linen according to interfacing instructions (typically this means fusing the bumpy side of the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric).

3. Cut two strips of linen that are 24″ x 4″, these will be your tote straps.

4. Fold one of your linen strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press with a hot iron. Open up the strip, and fold both long edges to meet in the middle, press again. Fold the strip along the original middle fold and press one more time. Repeat for the other strip.

Photobucket

Photobucket

5. Sew a single stitch with your machine along the long edges of the linen strips, on both sides, very close to the edges. Sew the side where the two folded edges meet first. I use a slightly longer stitch length (3.0 on my machine) for this step. Set aside someplace safe.

Photobucket

Appliqué

1. Print the appliqué template onto regular paper (make sure under print settings that your Page Scaling is set to “None”, or your pieces will print a bit small). Cut out the cloud and raindrop.

2. Cut a rectangle of Wonder Under that is a little bit bigger than the cloud piece. Fuse the rough side of the Wonder Under to the wrong side of your cloud fabric.

Photobucket

Photobucket

3. Remove the paper backing from the fabric, then cut out the fabric right along the edge of the fusible web.

4. Place your cloud template piece on the wrong side of the fabric, it will stick a little to the fusible web, which is helpful, because now you want to cut around the cloud template. Peel off the template paper. Repeat steps 2-4 for several raindrops (I made 5).

Photobucket

5. Fold the large linen rectangle in half, short sides together, and crease on one side to determine the midline. Open up the linen. Place your linen piece right side up on your ironing board. Place the cloud appliqué piece right side up near the top (one of the short sides) of the linen 2 to 2-1/2” from the top, and 1-1/2” from the side.

6. Fuse the cloud to the linen with a hot iron. Fuse the raindrops to the linen below the cloud, the lowest raindrop at least 2-3″ above from the midline.

Photobucket

8. Sew around the edge of each of your appliqué pieces. If you use a satin stitch, practice on scrap fabric before you work on your project. Remember to start with your needle on the outside of the appliqué pieces. Or you may want to use a simple straight stitch on the inside of the raw edges, which is what I will be using on the project (I like to use a shorter stitch length, 2.0 on my machine, so the curves are smoother). Either way, sew slowly and use my suggestions for sewing around small, tight curves from my last post.

Photobucket

You might find it helpful to roll up the bottom part of the linen and pin it on each side, to make it easier to maneuver the fabric while sewing.

Photobucket

Sew the Tote

1. Pin one of your bag straps to a top edge of the right side of the appliquéd linen, raw edge to raw edge. The outer edge of each side of the strap should be 2-1/2″ from the edge of the appliquéd linen (see photo). Measure to make sure the strap is centered, and also check to see that the strap isn’t twisted. I like the side of the strap where the folded edges meet to be toward the center of the bag. Repeat for other strap.

Photobucket

2. Sew both ends of each strap to the bag, close to the edge (about 1/4”).

3. Fold your appliquéd linen in half, right sides together, and short sides (top and bottom) together. Pin the long sides.

Photobucket

4.Sew with a triple stitch all the way along the long sides (which will be the edges of the bag) with a 1/4” seam allowance. Trim bottom corners, but do not clip the stitching.

Photobucket

5. Turn the linen right side out, and use a chopstick or point turner to push out the corners.

6. Fold your bag lining in half, right sides together, and pin the sides. Sew one of the long sides with a triple stitch and 1/4” seam allowance, and go all the way from the top to the bottom. On the other side, you will do the same thing, except leave a 3” hole unsewn, somewhere toward the bottom, at least a couple of inches from the bottom (see photo). Trim the bottom corners. Do not turn the lining right side out.

Photobucket

7. Place your linen bag piece inside the lining. Make sure that the straps are hanging down on the inside of the lining. The right side of the linen should be facing the right side of the lining. Match up the side seams with the top of the seam allowances open, and pin the pieces together, all the way around the top, matching the raw edges.

Photobucket

Photobucket

8. Sew a 1/2″ seam around the top of the bag, using a triple stitch. You may find this easier to do with a 90/14 needle. If your machine has a free arm, now is the time to use it. You’ll want to use it again for the topstitching in step 12.

Photobucket

9. Turn your bag right side out through the turning hole, and leave the lining outside the bag.

Photobucket

10. Turn under the edges of the fabric around the turning hole to create a straight line with the rest of the seam. Press with an iron, then sew the lining shut. You can either hand stitch it closed with a blind stitch or ladder stitch, or you can use your machine and sew very close to the edge (a zipper foot is helpful for this method). Don’t forget to backstitch!

Photobucket

11. Put the lining into the bag. Press the bag around the top edge, making sure the lining does not stick up beyond the top edge of the bag so the top of the bag will look neat after topstitching.

12. Topstitch around the opening of the bag, very close to the edge. I like to use a slightly longer stitch length (3.0 on my machine).

Photobucket

The bag is the perfect size for magazines or children’s picture books, and I love it as a library tote. The natural linen will get a bit crinkly with use, I think it adds personality!

Photobucket

Thanks for sewing with me during the Sewing 101 series, and as always, if you have any questions just leave them in the comments below.

Happy Sewing! Kim

Sewing 101: Part 3

Sewing 101: Part 3

Isn't Kim doing a great job on these lessons? I mean… her instructions are so easy to follow. I can't wait to try my hand at making her retro tissue holder.

Oh, and I just snagged one of her doll tutorials on sale. You gotta hurry on over there because her sale ends tomorrow!

-Sara

P.S. Here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4.

 

 

Hi Craft Snobs! Kim here, from Retro Mama, back for week three of the Sewing 101 series. In week one I let you know about all my favorite sewing tools, in week two we were sewing straight lines and corners, and this week is all about curves.

Once you've added sewing curves to your repertoire, you can make things like pockets and necklines and bags…and tissue holders, which we'll make today, after a little bit of curve-sewing practice!

Photobucket

There are a couple of different approaches to sewing curves, and I use one or the other depending on the situation:

  1. Long, gradual curves: Sew at a slow and steady pace and whatever you do, don't stop! As when driving, it’s best not to overcorrect if you notice that you are veering a little off course, just calmly adjust your path and you’ll be back on your way in no time, without little swervy stitches giving you away.
  2. When sewing around smaller, tighter curves or circles: I sew these in a very slow and methodical way, sometimes just a stitch or two at a time if necessary. I’ll sew one or two stitches, then, with the needle in the down position, lift up the presser foot, turn the fabric slightly, then put the presser foot back down and go another stitch or two. Sometimes I’ll even just use the hand wheel on the side of the machine to move the needle to avoid accidentally shooting ahead a few stitches with the foot pedal. I’ll repeat this process typically for just the tightest part of the curve, and get back to a normal speed whenever I can.

The best way to become an expert at sewing curves is to sew curves, so let’s dive into it!

Take a scrap piece of fabric and fold it over (you'll rarely need to sew through just one layer of fabric, so sewing on the doubled fabric is closer to how you will sew in real life). Draw some large curves on the fabric, as in the photo below, and then sew over the lines. For additional practice, try drawing circles of various sizes, and then sew over them.

Photobucket

If you don’t have scraps you could use for practice, I recommend picking up some inexpensive cotton muslin at your local fabric store. Muslin is perfect for practicing sewing techniques, trying out a new clothing pattern to get the size right, and as a lining in certain types of projects.

Now, it's time to put your curve-sewing skills to work! Below you will find my quick and easy tissue holder tutorial. These make cute teacher gifts, and I like to keep a brightly colored holder in my purse so my tissues are easy to find.

Tissue Holder Tutorial

Materials:

  • Scrap of fabric for the outside of the holder 7" x 10" (quilting cotton, linen/cotton blend)
  • Scrap of fabric for the inside of the holder 7" x 10" (quilting cotton, solid cotton, or muslin)
  • Thread Package of prefolded travel-sized facial tissue
  • *Pattern (you may want to print the pattern on card stock so it's easier to trace around)

*When printing the pattern PDF, make sure that “Page scaling” under the print settings is set to “None” so the pattern pieces will print at the proper size!

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Disappearing ink fabric pen
  • Scissors
  • Chopstick or point turner
  • Iron and ironing board

Instructions:

1. Fold your fabric in half, right sides together.

2. Place the pattern on the fabric, with the long straight edge along the fold (important!!) and trace around the pattern with a fabric pen.

Photobucket

3. Cut out the fabric along your drawn lines. Do not cut on the fold.

4. Cut out another identical piece with your lining fabric. Unfold the two pieces and press.

Photobucket

5. Place your outer and lining pieces right sides together and pin.

Photobucket

6. Sew around the outside edge of the pieces with a 1/4” seam allowance, leaving a 2" hole unsewn on one of the long sides, for turning. Backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam. I used red thread so it would be visible in the photos, but you'll want to use a neutral or matching thread so it won't show through on the other side.

Photobucket

7. Trim the seam allowances on the curves to about 1/8”, and also trim the fabric close to the corners.

Photobucket

8. Turn the holder right side out, and use a chopstick or point turner to carefully push out the corners, being careful not to stretch the fabric.

9. Tuck in the unsewn edges of your tissue holder to create a straight edge and press the holder with a hot iron. Take care to press the curves so that you don’t see the lining fabric from the outer side; this will help make your topstitched edge nice and neat.

Photobucket

10. Topstitch, close to the edge, just around the curves.

Photobucket

Photobucket

11. Fold the holder into thirds, with the outer fabric on the inside, so the curved edges are centered and touch in the middle, and the edges overlap (one side goes on top of the other, the other side goes underneath – see photo below) and pin.

Photobucket

12. Sew all the way across the short straight edges of the holder with a slightly less than 1/4” seam allowance (to make sure that the turning hole gets sewn over), on both sides, using your triple stitch function. If you don't have a triple stitch, then you'll want to sew a single straight stitch, and then sew over that two more times for reinforcement.

Photobucket

Just in case you're not sure what the triple stitch symbol looks like, it is 3 parallel dashed lines–here's a photo of the symbol on my machine:

Photobucket

(Triple stitch tip: the faster you sew, the smoother the needle movement will feel! Practice with different speeds on scrap fabric and you'll see what I mean.) Turn right side out, tuck in a pack of tissues, and you’re finished!

Photobucket

Happy Sewing! And if you want more practice sewing curves, try out my fabric Easter Egg tutorial! Next week I'll be showing you a very fun and versatile technique, and have one last sewing tutorial for you.

See you then!

Kim

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!

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

8. Press the fabric open.

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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).

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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!

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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!

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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

Happy Sewing, and see you next week!

Kim

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.

Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

  • 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

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

Essential Sewing Tools

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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