Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sewing: McCall's M6111

This McCall's M6111 pattern has been in my pattern collection for some time now. One of my younger students made a really cute peach cotton version of the dress in my beginner sewing class. She did such an amazing job, that I just had to add it to my own summer sewing list. I made the dress several weeks ago, and it even made its' debut on a sunny beach in Trinidad and Tobago. It is simple but very cute (especially over a swim suite), and can be easily modified to make it more unique.

I chose a lightweight cotton print and selected dress style "B." I used a French seam (using the ⅝" seam allowance) along the sides and finished my raw edges with a serger. It was fun to make and is a great project for all skill levels.

I have been doing a lot of sewing lately and I hope to share more projects with you. Let me know what you think about this pattern and share a pattern that you like.

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flowers and Butterfly Magnets

My youngest son and I were at the craft store recently, when suddenly he was at my side with a sprig of flowers that had a butterfly attached at the top. He had a beautiful smile and handed me the sprig of flowers and said, "this is for you mommy." Needless to say, he was rewarded with a big hug and kiss. I purchased the flowers as his gift to me, but really did not have a purpose for them. After giving it some thought I got the idea to make magnets. I will have a useful purpose for them, and it is a great way to show my son how much I appreciate his thoughtful gift.

With the use of a scissors, some hot glue and a small magnet; several really cute magnets were created.

My little guys love the magnets and really enjoy playing with them on the refrigerator.

I think that they are really cute and will make a fun gift. If you are interested in making these magnets, they are really easy to make and are lots of fun. Just cut the back of your flowers as close to the base as possible, then hot glue it to a small magnet. For a full magnet tutorial, check out decorative magnets and the super cute bottle cap magnets.

I hope that you will try making your own flowers and butterfly magnets. Enjoy!

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Choose a Sewing Machine

I got my first sewing machine when I was about eighteen years old and I still use it today. My first sewing machine is a basic Singer machine that was purchased at Costco as a gift from my mother. It cost less that two hundred dollars and it has served me well. I am often asked what type of sewing machine I have and what I prefer. My sewing students also ask my advise on choosing a sewing machine, so I have decided to address the subject and I hope it will be helpful.

Over the years, I have purchased several sewing machines, specialty machines and sergers. I have found myself investing primarily in a selection of Singer and Janome machines. I also have a four-thread Kenmore serger and an inexpensive Brother sewing machine. The machines I have range in prices and have been purchased from different suppliers; however, I have been very happy with them all. The machines I have were selected based on the type of projects I make, how often I use them, how easy they are to maintain and the initial cost.

Sewing machines can be found from under a hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars. Identifying what type of projects you will like to produce is a great place to start. When it comes to different textiles and weight of materials, all sewing machines are not created equally. Generally speaking the more you invest the better quality you will find. Having said so, I have found that you do not have to invest a small fortune to find a good sewing machine. I also think that the brand you choose, are really a matter of preference and there are machines available in different price points from the different brands.

Doing your research is key in finding the right sewing machine. Become familiar with the different sewing machine brands and visit their websites (see list below) for product information. Visit several dealers and prepare a list of questions you may have about machine features, maintenance and servicing. It is most important that you are comfortable with your sewing machine; so if possible try it out in the store to get a feel for the machine. Keep a journal and make a note on what you like and dislike about each machine.

If you are a beginner sewer looking to develop your garment construction or home decorative furnishing skills; the basic "dressmaker" sewing machine with a selection of basic stitches would properly do the trick. A machine with a built-in button hole feature and some basic decorative embroidery stitches may also be an asset and will support more advance projects.

If you are interested in quilting then you may want to think about the types of quilts and the complexity of the quilts you will like to make. You can use a basic “dressmaker” sewing machine; but may want to consider investing in a machine that will provide you with more features to help make your quilting easier. There are lots of great specialty quilting machines available, but keep in mind that the price point will generally be higher than a basic dressmaker machine. You can also review articles on finding the best sewing machines for quilters, to get more information on what is best for the type of projects you are interested in making.

As you develop your sewing skills and you start sewing more projects, you may want to consider purchasing a serger or overlocking machine. The serger or overlocking machine is great for seams and adding a finishing touch to your projects. This machine is especially helpful for finishing sheer lightweight fabrics, such as chiffon. I have a Janome and a Kenmore four-thread serger and have been very happy with both their performance. Other specialty machines include embroidery machines, buttonhole machines and hemming machines just to name a few. The more advance your work becomes or if you will like to move toward your own production, then the importance of these machines will be a consideration. Once again the cost will range and how much you are willing to invest will determine the quality of the machine.

If you are looking to invest in an industrial sewing machine, the options vary and are based on the type of projects you will like to make, and what you want to invest. There are machines that only do straight stitch and those that do both straight and zig zag stitches. You can also invest in a machine that makes buttonholes or a serger. I purchased my Singer industrial sewing machine several years ago. It fit within my budget and is great for the fabric I use to make handbags and heavy weight projects. This series have been in production for well over 20 years. It can be used to sew a wide range of materials including lightweight leather. With 2500 straight stitch per minute, this machine is a staple in my studio. Another personal favourite of mine are those produced by Juki.

Regardless of what type of machine you are looking for, only you can decide what is going to work best for your needs. I have read several articles on the subject and the only objection I will like to add is that you can often find the same machine at a lower price so do shop around. You may find that with a little reach the same machine can be found at your local hobby shop or craft department for a bit less. So make note of the machine style number and features and shop around.

Happy shopping!

Some sources for sewing machines:

Baby Lock -
Bernina -
Brother -
Elna -
Husqvarna Viking -
Janome -
Juki -
Pfaff -
Singer -

I also hope that once you have gotten your machine, you might find the following demonstration helpful.

How to Fill Your Bobbin

Friday, June 6, 2014

Organizing Sewing Patterns

I have been slowly fine-tuning the way I organize my studio. One of the challenges have been how to best organize my sewing patterns, and I have recently started using a method that has really been working well for me. Over the years I have used several methods to keep my patterns organize; however, for one reason or another they did not work for my purposes so I decided to try something new.

I wanted to keep things simple, organized and intuitive. I also wanted to be able to see my patterns at a glance, and as such using manila envelopes (which I have tried before) was not an option. Finding a method to separate the patterns into categories was also on my list. I wanted to use something that will work well with daily handling and can be easily relabelled when needed.

I found these black plastic binders (Oxford - Black #57722) at the dollar store. They have just the right amount of structure, flexibility, are easy to clean, and the price was .50 cents per binder. I got four divider tabs from each binder. I made the labels with my labeller and placed them over a strip of lime green polka dot washi tape for a burst of colour. I will be relabeling them in the future for a more uniformed look, but for now they work.

I have a few clear resealable plastic bags that I am testing out to store the individual patterns. The idea is to place a pattern in one of these bags to protect the envelope and to easily see the pattern. The bags are the just a little bigger than the patterns, so they fit perfectly. They have been working quite well; even after the pattern has been cut everything fits nicely. I have also started a binder where I store a copy of the pattern in plastic sheet protectors so that I can catalogue what I have in my collection.

All of the commercial sewing patterns I currently have fit into two draws. There are approximately 200 patterns, some of which are for the sewing classes I teach. There are still lots of room for more patterns if needed. I have chosen to store these patterns separate from the ones I design and I am still thinking of a better way to organize those patterns (future post!).

I hope that sharing this has been helpful and will spark some ideas on how you can approach your pattern organization. I am guessing that I will make some changes in the future, but for now I am happy with the results. I think that is important to be flexible and to think of how you will incorporate new patterns as your collection grows. There are also lots of ideas available and with a little planning; the right organizing solution is always within reach.

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