Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Part Way There

I'm making a slipcover for the loveseat and bench/ottoman in the living room. This is the first half of my project and I am hoping the second half will be finished for next week:

Here is the blue, micro-suede of the original couch. Apparently it does not stain. When the salesman claimed that he had not met my basset hound -who is sometimes called Mr. Muddy Paws. So I purchased a slipcover which didn't stain but darkened over the years.

I have no idea how to make a slipcover, so I decided to make a muslin out of old sheets. And you know, it worked out pretty well.

After intially cutting pieces for the muslin, I fit them to the couch.

I had to make the front of the arm rest from paper (good ol' paper from IKEA).

And then I draped the real fabric cut from pieces of the muslin. (The fabric by the way was $5/m and it is a heavy polyester - it was in the uphostery aisle but it looks like suiting...)

I'm working away...making speedy headway with it all...

When my basset (with his sore paw from a spider bite) took up his usual spot on the couch. (The striped fabric is for a pet balnket that will stretch the entire length of the couch so that Elvis can sit on the couch and I can still keep the slipcover looking nice). Hopefully this will be finished by next weekend.

Other things I am up to this week:

Steph at Three Hours Past the Edge of the World has started her pre-sale for the Tiramisu. I ordered mine! I love all the fitting details she has included. See her site for more information on the pattern or go to her etsy store to order your own copy. It's only $12 until October 5th. The pattern will ship in November.

I am also signing up for the Craftsy course on Sewing with Knits. I am new to sewing knits - my first top being a Renfrew which went remarkably well. I'm hoping to learn a bit more but I really signed up because I love the Yoga pants and hoodie patterns. There are five patterns with this course and I like them all!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Bit about Thread


Your  choice of thread depends on your choice of fabric. That said, you want a good quality thread. Thread that is more than a decade old should be put aside for making muslins because thread does degrade in quality over time.

Fabric Choice and Colour are the two main criteria when selecting thread for your garment. I tend to use a general  all purpose polyester thread for most projects because I like the strength and durability that it provides. Cotton thread is weaker and on kids clothes, this can be a problem, so over time, I've realized that polyester thread is always a consideration. Thread used for construction needs to be stronger than decorative thread.

Colour Choices: the rule is to choose a darker shade (one shade darker) thread colour from the garment fabric and it is one I use. But on lighter fabrics, a shade lighter tends to disappear more easily.

Different Thread Choices:

General Purpose: these can be mercerized cotton or cotton polyester or polyester. These are suitable for using in the sewing machine and are also sold in cones and are ideal for serger sewing too.

General Purpose Polyester Thread: It looks, feels, and performs like nylon thread. But, there is one important difference - polyester thread has superior resistance to sunlight (UV), mildew, and abrasion. It is resistant to aging - see below on the shelf life of thread. This makes polyester thread the first choice for sewing, binding or wrapping anything that is consistently used outdoors or in moist areas.

Nylon thread is a good choice for heavy, sturdier fabrics. Use nylon thread for sewing almost anything that requires strength and durability. It is strong, easy to use, and a great choice for sewing fabric, leather, canvas, and vinyl.

Cotton Thread: The fibres are short and if not made well, or if it is an aging thread, will produce a lot of lint. So you must invest in a good quality cotton thread, should you choose to use one.  Also, be sure to clean the sewing machine after sewing a garment with cotton thread. Mercerized cotton is less prone to lint that non-mercerized cotton thread.

Rayon thread: this is made of a combination of natural and synthetic fibres. It comes in a variety of colours that make it ideal for embroidery. But rayon thread is not strong enough for garment sewing. It may also not be colourfast - a real issue for all sewing projects.

Silk thread: ideal for sewing silks and wools. Stronger polyester thread can tear the fabric when a garment is worn - so when sewing silk or wool be sure to look for thread that matches the fabric choice. This thread is soft and gentle and tends not to knot easily. It is a lot pricier than polyester though.

Machine Embroidery Floss: This is made from polyester and rayon fibres and has a high sheen. It is this high sheen that reflects the light and makes this idea for embroidery. This thread is thick, so be sure to match needle size and to only use as a top thread (use a plain cotton or polyester black or white thread in the bobbin.)

Heavy Duty/Upholstery : This thread is intended for sewing upholstery and other heavy or stiff fabrics. It is usually made from nylon. It's just about the strongest of all the threads available on a spool. It's also thicker than most other threads.

Metallic thread: I bought metallic thread recently because I want to use it for top-stitching a pair of jeans. It is a heavier thread and requires a specific needle to keep the thread from breaking.

Mono-filament/Transparent Nylon - Colorless and very strong, this thread is a good choice when you need invisibility.

Bobbin Fill:  This is a fine thread usually available in bobbins that is used to reduce the bulk on embroidered designs.

Basting thread: This soft, cotton thread is not as strong as the all-purpose thread and is used for basting stitches. It will not damage fabric when removed.

Top-stitching thread: This thread is designed to stand out. Look for it in bright colours as well as black and white. It is stronger and thicker and should be used with a top-stitching needle. (And with general purpose thread in bobbin - to save money and reduce bulk!)

Thread Weight: 

There is no universal scale for thread weights. Generally, the higher the number the lighter the thread weight.
And choosing thread for your project doesn't have to be difficult: think of the wt of your fabric and find a suitable thread for it: denim requires a sturdier thread whereas a sheer fabric requires something light-weight.

For the math-minded: Dividing the length of thread by a set weight derives the exact measurement of a thread weight. A thread is labeled 40 wt. because one gram is 40 meters long.Whereas a thread labelled 20 wt. is much thicker because a much shorter thread weighs the same as a 40 wt. (this is the fixed wt system)

Length — in length measurements, higher numbers reflect thicker or heavier threads. "Denier" refers to the weight in grams of 9000 meters of thread. If 9000 meters weighs 1120 grams, it is a 120 d thread. Most embroidery threads are 120/2, which equals 2 strands of 120-denier thread for a 240 denier total. (this is the fixed length system)

"Tex" refers to the weight in grams of 1000 meters of thread. If 1000 meters weighs 25 grams, it is Tex 25.

The physical size of thread affects your project:

  • Both top and bobbin tensions — Changing the thread physically changes the tension. When thread size is changed, the upper and lower tensions should be checked.

  • Thread displacement — Too many thread fibers in a set space make the fabric pucker - Iincrease stitch length.

  • Needle selection — Eye of the needle should be 40% larger than the diameter of the thread. When going to a larger size thread, a larger needle should be used.

 More About Thread: 

Test the Quality of Your Thread:
  • look for a smooth,nub-free strand that doesn’t twist easily and is as free as possible of fuzz
  • Do this by holding the thread up to the light for visual inspection and by rubbing it with your fingers.
Test the thread with your fabric choice: 
       This goes without saying really, but I will say it: run a test swatch for tension, stitch length, etc.
Also, I note what thread, tension and stitch length on a sticky note and post it on my pattern envelope. That way, if I put a project down, I can return to it and be sure of that I can take it up immediately.

Test for the Shelf Life of Thread:  Thread does have a shelf life and if it is exposed to air or light for too long, it can get brittle. There really is no official way to tell if your thread is past its shelf life so one way to test your thread is to take a piece about 8" long, tie it into a knot in the middle and then give it a gentle tug on both ends. If the thread breaks, it is time to get a new spool. (old polyester thread flakes...)

What causes thread to get old? 
  • Time
  • Exposure to heat and air conditioning (your thread should be stored in a drawer or at least, have a covering)
  • UV rays
 Generally thread that is kept clean and away from UV rays lasts longer....

Is Your thread too old? Don't toss it: save it for use when making muslins.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Pyramid continues

File:Plant bookworm in Manchester (front view).jpg

Michelle at the bookworm sewist (I wish I had thought of that name for my blog) has the next leg of the Pattern Pyramid up and going. She's picked a pattern and promises to make it up soon - my own is cut out and all ready to be put together in the next week or so. ( I am currently sidetracked by the start of the school year, a sick dog and a slipcover I just have to make to cover the dingy sofa...)

Also, isn't the bookworm garden sculpture picture amazing? I found this pic on wikki commons and know nothing about it. I bet it's English - they seem to have amazing garden creatures...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Postcards and Patterns - the Magazines

 Here is part of my Burda stash. I have decided to just buy and print the patterns I like from the Burda website. The whole process of tracing these things out is too much for me. 

In a trade, I would like three envelope patterns for each magazine.  All magazines are complete and one has a few patterns that have been traced in what looks like pale green hi-lighter or marker. All except the middle one (with the woman in a pink dress) are from 2002.



Some of the patterns in this magazine have been traced and there are marks (it looks like pale green hi-lighter) on some of the pattern pieces. All patterns are intact. (6/2012) Traded

11/2002 Traded


Monday, September 17, 2012



Denim is a version of the French City for which it is named ( Nimes)

The term "jeans" comes from the Italian city of Genoa where the denim pants were first worn.The people who lived there were known as "Genes" and you can see where this is going...

Dungarees is a Hindi word meaning coarse cloth.

Almost all denim is cotton - though recently, some are cotton blends

Denim is traditionally a weave of cotton where the warp threads are dyed blue but the weft remain white. This is why jeans are white on the inside and also, why jeans fade in a unique manner.

The orange thread traditionally used to sew Levi Strauss blue jeans was intentionally selected to match the copper rivets that doubled the durability of the jeans.

George Washington toured a production line of denim fabric in 1798 in Massachusetts.

Levi Struass sold denim overalls to gold miners in the 1850s in California.

At about the same time as the gold rush, railway workers wore "hickory cloth" which was twill fabric weaved with tan and white threads. The workers who wore this hickory cloth became known as "hicks" and the word survives to this day - as a derogatory word for people who live in rural or out-of-the-way areas.

The darker blue twill, known as "denim", was more durable than hickory cloth because it didn't show the dirt as easily.

Denim was, until recently, reserved for work clothes - hence, the trousers and overalls.

The U.S. Navy introduced the bell-bottomed trouser in 1817 to permit men to roll their pants above the knee when washing down the decks, and to make it easier to remove them in a hurry when forced to abandon ship or when washed overboard.

Until 1960, "waist overalls" was the traditional term used for denim pants. By the late 1950s, however, teenagers were calling them jeans, so Levi Strauss officially began using the name, too.

Denim is almost synonoymous with the colour blue.

Before the 1970s, denim was only manufactured in the United States.

It is estimated that 2.5 billion yards of denim is manufactured each year!

Denim vs. Jeans

While the historical definition implies that all jeans are made of denim the word jeans generally mean a 5 pocket garment that has two pockets in the front two in the back and small change pocket inside the front right pocket. This style made in any fabric can be called a “jean” and certainly includes corduroy, and piece dyed cotton fabrics.

Fabric Weight

Denim is available in different weights - ranging from 5 to 20 oz. A yard of denim is weighed to measure the weight.

A 20 oz denim is not going to bend and move for most garment uses. A 5 oz denim is not going to provide heavy denim jeans or jackets, however it will make wonderful shirts, skirts and dresses that will drape well. Knowing that denim runs from 5 to 20 oz and that the less the weight, the lighter, softer, loft the denim will have, you can purchase or request samples of the weights you believe are in the scope you are looking for.

Before You Sew

It is always a good idea to pre-treat your fabric in the way you plan to launder the finished garment. This is just good sense.

Denim shrinks with washing, fades with wear, stretches when worn and its color tends to run in the wash, so prewash and dry the fabric several times before sewing.

This also removes any sizing, which can cause skipped stitches, and softens the fabric.

If the fabric has been "sanforized" then it has been pre-treated and will not shrink more than 1% with the wash. Look on the bolt to see if the fabric has been saniforized.

2 things I have learned to do: - I use pinking shears to limit raveling before I pre-treat denim and I test the fabric for excessive dye (I rub the fabric against a white towel, if the dye rubs onto the towel, I know the dye will likely colour all the wash and wash the fabric alone or with dark colours.)

Sewing Denim:

When cutting out the pattern, consider cutting facings from lining or contrast fabric to reduce bulk.

Be sure to use a with nap cutting layout (denim definitely has a directional pattern!)

Denim dulls needles quickly - start with a new denim needle and be prepared to change needles throughout the construction process.

Denim needles are longer and sharper and generally have large eyes so that thicker top-stitching thread can be accommodated.

Stretch denim requires a stretch stitch - I learned this the hard way!

Store-bought denim is often finished with flat-fell seams, which really clean up the inside of the garment.

The easiest seam finish is a pinked edge. Simply trim the seam allowance with pinking shears. For extra protection, run a straight stitch along the raw edge first and cut with pinking shears.

Topstitching gives denim its trademark look. If you don’t have topstitching thread, use two strands of regular thread so the topstitching stands out. Use regular thread in the bobbin. If the threads bind up, loosen the needle-thread tension slightly.

Use contrast colour threads for top-stitching.

Be sure to use a good, quality top-stitching thread that will maintain its colour through repeated launderings.

Denim softens with age, so there is no reason to line this fabric, unless you want to.

Uses for Denim

At one time, denim was reserved for work clothes. Toay, denim fabric can be made into jeans, shorts, overalls, skirts, jackets, bags, capris, shoes, dresses , duvet covers, curtains and shirts.

Care of Denim

Denim is a rugged fabric. It can be washed in hot or cold water and dried on high or low heat. Since denim is made of cotton, it has a tendency to shrink when first washed. To reduce the risk of shrinking, wash in cold water and dry on a low heat or hang to dry.

Hemming Denim Jeans:

I think everyone, seamstress or not, has hemmed jeans. Here are a few tricks:

From TLC:

1.Decide on the length of your jeans. It's always a good call to have the hem just brush the ground when you're standing up straight and wearing the shoes you're most likely to wear with them. When you pin, be sure to take the jeans off, measure to make sure the hem is even all the way around, iron where the new hem is, and put them back on
2.Trim the excess material leaving a 1" hem allowance below the new hemline. Cut an extra
3.Fold the hem
4.Start sewing near a seam
5.Once your hem is sewn, take your sand paper and gently rough up the bottom of your hem and a little along the outer side. This will give it that aged, worn look that matches the rest of the jeans.

Here's a trick from Delusions of Retevance:

After you've cut off the existing hems (don't lazy-out on this step), ironed the raw edges under, and pinned them to the appropriate length, grab a hammer and take it and your jeans to a hard surface. 

Now, whack the seams a few times to break down the fibers and you'll be able to sew through with relative ease with no broken needles or missed stitches. 

Depending on the fabric and the construction of the seams, you may need to go slow (very slow) and help the needle through by turning the wheel with your hand. Sewing through full-speed-ahead is what breaks the needles when they come upon a particularly dense section of fabric.

Denim Crafts for Recylcing old jeans:

Denim baskets from old jeans

Also check out some ideas from my scrap fabric lists here and here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Using Lutterloh

Tonight I made a pattern from the Lutterloh system. I bought it on Ebay for about $50 for the starter kit - and almost immediately afterwards the prices on Ebay for Lutterloh books have gone through the roof. I would love to find someone who would be willing to share books - or copies - back and forth.

The Lutterloh - or Golden Rule Pattern-Making - uses two measurements to enlarge patterns to your size. And believe it or not, it seems to work. I find that I have to do a lot less tweaking with Lutterloh patterns than with store-bought ones.

Lutterloh is a German pattern company, operating since the 1930s. See it at  The started set gives you a book with 200 plus patterns (mostly women's patterns) and a measuring tape, thumb tacks and drafting marker. You set one on a piece of pattern paper (I use the Ikea kid's roll of paper - the best deal at $5 for 100 ft, even here in Canada). Enlarge it by marking out at each point by your measurements, using their special tape measure, for your size.  From my first hour or two playing with it, it seems to work amazingly well, and doesn't take any longer than drawing out a Burda pattern.) 

The concept is beautifully simple. You take your bust and hip measurements, then working from these numbers on a special tape measure, you enlarge the miniature pattern by extending out all round along points marked with the extension.  It is quick and easy once you have practiced a bit, and again, I'd say no slower than drawing out a Burda pattern. 

I believe, after having made a few patterns, that they are drafted for someone who is about 5'8, which means that I have to shorten my patterns a bit. Someone who is short-waisted may have to alter the length on the body and legs of any pattern too. I like my tops extra long because I work with children and need to bend and stretch all day, so I made that alteration. Its an alteration I make to all patterns though.

There are patterns for all sorts of people, children, teens, misses, full-figured and a few for men. And the range includes everything from swimsuits to winter coats.The women's patterns can be enlarged to any size (as all Lutterloh patterns can be) but I bring this up because the full-figured patterns are designed to flatter full figure women, but all women can make all patterns to their sizes.

I chose any easy shirt - nothing too complicated - and cut it out this evening. I drew out the pattern, and shortened it above and below the bust.  The front band is drawn at the same time as the front, and has to be cut apart. You have to add seam allowances yourself. Yardage is given, in centimeters, but there is no pattern layout, and no specific instructions. I checked the pattern by walking all the seams, and again it was fine. So I cut, and am in the process of sewing.

Tips for Lutterloh Patterns:

Photocopy the pattern (or I guess, trace it out) so that the original stays in tact.

Use the tape measure provided, or make one by searching Google. You can buy one from the Lutterloh site for about $15 if you don't have one.

Look for this system at thrift stores -it has been around since the 1930s! There are new additions every season, and each year a new started book is put out.

Always pattern fit. Same as any other pattern.

There are no sewing instructions but any seamstress beyond a beginner can do this. The patterns are simple. For a beginner, I would recommend referring to Big 4 patterns for help with putting together the pattern. If you've sewn a few shift dresses from McCalls, you probably know what to do to for a Lutterloh shift dress (but since shift dresses are easy anyway, that was a bad example...)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Third - and last - Set of Patterns for Postcards and Patterns Swap

Butterick 4277 Size 20

Vogue Paris Original (Givenchy)  V1993 size 10

Traded to Sewisewedthis Simplicity 9518 Size 14

Traded to Sewisewedthis Vogue Paris Original  Molyneux) V1875 Size 14

Vogue American Designer (John Anthony) 2288 size 14

Traded to SewisewedthisVogue American Designer (Bill Haire) 2693 Size 14

Vogue Paris Original (Givenchy) 1316 size 10

Traded to Pam V7932 size 12, 14, 16

Style 2663 Size 14

Vogue Attitudes 1860 size 8-10-12

Butterick (David Warren) 5434 size 6-8-10

Traded Vogue Paris Original (Guy Laroche) Size 14

Traded to the Perfect Nose Vogue Paris Original (Emanual Ungaro) 2612 Size 14

I have two other lots of patterns listed here and here.....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Second Set of 5 Patterns for Postcards and Patterns

Okay, I managed to find five more patterns for the swap....

Be sure to check out my other patterns up for the Patterns and Postcards swap here.  

And my final list here.
Traded to Katie. Simplicity 6698 bust 38 size 16

Simplicity 7489 Bust 39 size 16 1/2

Vogue 8775 - this looks like a coat pattern but it requires fleece. SO it's more of light jacket. XS-S-M

Size 16 Bust 36

Simplicty 7750 size Large, 16-18

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fitting Tricks

I am just only learning now that a big advantage to sewing your own clothes is having clothes that are flattering and fit well. In high school, I just followed the directions for whatever size I cut out and presto, I ended up with a garment that fit well-enough. But I am older now and wiser, and I hope I am getting better at fitting. (Although I have run into some fitting problems recently...)

1 Start with the best pattern size for your measurements.
Take your measurements periodically just to be sure. Note that the bust measurement on the picture below may be better taken as the "high bust" - meaning across the back, underarms and above the bust. I actually take my bust measurement because fitting the upper body isn't usually an issue. Many women prefer to take the high bust measurement because then the shoulders fit well and then make an adjustment to the bust if needed.

2. Trace your pattern!
If you are going to alter the pattern, keep the original in good condition. That way, if you make a mistake or if you change sizes later, you can still use the pattern. I trace using the 100ft roll of kids' craft paper at Ikea(It sells for $5). It is high quality paper and I use it for tons of things (gift wrap in a pinch; lining cupboards, floor paper when I paint, etc). If you are hard-headed, like me, you may have to ruin a pattern or two before you abide by this sage advice!

3. Tissue fit (or make a muslin...)
This is the lazy woman's way to avoid a muslin. I tissue fit the pattern to my body as a rough guide to whether I will fit the pattern. I don't bother pinning darts or pleats (as these can be played with when putting them in). All I am looking for is whether the fabric I cut will fit my body. I haven;t used Swedish tracing paper, although many people have told me this is fabulous paper to trace the paper on and then use as a muslin. It is on my Christmas list though!!!

3a. Size up with Grid paper
I use graph paper to add to a pattern. Then I simply count squares and add equally to both sides, should the paper pattern need to be enlarged in spots. Graph paper keeps the calculations to a minimum and it is easy to tape the same number of squares to each side.

3b. If the pattern isn't in your size, measure the distance between sizes that are on the pattern and use a multiple of that measurement to make the pattern bigger. 

I learned this one from a Burda magazine tip. It is so smart. And it is time consuming. But a few times, I've fallen in love with a pattern that is too small. And so, with some work, I can re-draw the pattern to fit me simply - remember to measure each part of the pattern piece for the difference in sizes to ensure that the shape is not "lost" in the process.

4. I cut with wider seam allowances, especially when sewing pants.
I learned this trick from reading Pants that Fit, and it is a godsend. The trick is to mark the seam lines so that the shape of your garment isn't hopelessly lost in the extra seam allowance. 

I'd love to hear any tips you can add to this list. My goal this fall is to fit each pattern I make, so that it works on me!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Baby Bibs

I cut some fat quarters into the shape of baby bibs...

I spent some time deciding if these should be two-sided or one....

cut, cut, cut...

Since I did this before I picked up my Simplicity Bias Tape Maker, I used some store-bought tape (and I will make my own from now on....)
The dark yellow bias tape was made, the light yellow purchased. Here are a few bibs..I just cut the neck free-hand, because my friend's baby isn't born yet and I didn't have a baby handy to practise on...Did you know bibs are basically one size fits all?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Skirt for Fall...

Autumn Leaves............this is a print I found in the home decorating section of Fabricland. It was $3/m and it's 100% cotton. I thought it would be perfect for this McCalls skirt pattern (circa 1995).

I made version C, which has gussets.

The gussets don't photograph well because they are in the same fabric as the skirt. I may remake this version with contrasting gussets.

It is really a quick sew.

I chose to forego the button closure for a hook and bar closure. I also extended the waistline an inch or so because I like having a bit more room at the closure.

Here is the pattern, close up. It is definitely a keeper!


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