Friday, November 30, 2012

Where's the Lip Balm? Case

The question my daughters have always asked me is "Where's the Lip Balm?"  This easy case will solve the problem!  Make it with a keyring to attach your keys or a swivel snap to clip onto a bookbag, purse, wallet, or to easily clip and remove from your keyring!

The little case is perfectly sized for a lip balm, lipstick, or even a usb drive!

It's so easy to make and they make great stocking stuffers or birthday gifts.  If you're giving cash, roll a couple of dollars around a lip balm to make the cutest gift!  It only uses scraps of fabric so all you need is a zipper and a keychain or hook.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Using Fat Quarters for a Purse

I made myself a cute Journey Purse the other day!

A while back I had purchased a really cool packet of fat quarters - Retro Boho from Studio e.  So I decided to use 5 fat quarters to make my purse (there was a little left over for other bags, too)!  Scraps of favorite fabrics could also be used the same way!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easy Placemats for a Round Table Free Pattern

I have a 54" round table in my breakfast room that fits the four of us perfectly!  When my sister and my dad come to visit, we like to sit at the table but rectangular placemats won't work when there are six!  So I make placemats that fit 6 perfectly at a round table.

Two different fabrics make them reversible - if you get a small spot at lunch, flip them over for dinner!  I like to use cotton batting instead of polyester fleece or batting because you can then use them for hot plates (polyester may melt from the heat),

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Patch your Bag!

I like colorful and I like variety!  So my latest purse is a favorite!
Sidquilt's Patchwork Sheila Purse

I used the pre-cut squares from a quilt kit to make a Sheila Purse.  Whether you buy a Charm Pack or use your scraps, here's a quick tutorial on how to use patches to make a purse.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Wish That Purse Was Just A Little Bigger...

My purse and bag patterns are all made with rectangles - rotary cutting makes them easier.  The best thing about this fact is that the finished size is easily adjusted!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What makes the Perfect Wallet?

When I set out to design a wallet, I began with what I wanted and needed.  I also got input from fans on my Facebook page, friends, and a look at the patterns that were available at the time.

The result was the Hold It All Shopper.
This all-purpose wallet has more than 2 dozen pockets - 20 card pockets and 5 large pockets. It also has a clear identification pocket and a zipper pocket with divider for bills and coins. Use the large pockets for  receipts or coupons! There’s also a checkbook cover than can slip into its own pocket or carry separately.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

The best birthday gift is one I've received all year long!

Jenny's Zippy Tote and Sheila Bag
These treasures were made by Jenny - the Zippy Tote and Sheila Bag.

Seeing all the beautiful projects you've made with my patterns!  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Clean Your Machine!

Your machine should NOT have a felt pad underneath the stitch plate!!

I have a confession to make: I am not the best housekeeper. There just seems to be a lot more interesting things to do than scrub the floor. But I do keep my sewing machine clean!

If your sewing machine is skipping stitches or breaking needles, it may need a cleaning.  Cleaning your machine regularly will also keep your sewing machine out of the shop!

Your sewing machine is a big box of moving parts, probably with a couple of circuit boards included. Your fabric and thread are pierced and pushed which sends fine lint flying into all those moving parts! That’s why it’s so important to keep your sewing machine clean.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Strip Your Purse!

Ever wanted to use a luscious jellyroll (collections of 2.5" strips) to make a bag?  Have scraps you'd love to use to  make a purse?  Can't choose between bolts of a fabric collection?  Use strips to make a purse. 

Jamie Bag   Charmer Tote 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Secret Weapon #4 - Use a Thimble!

When I hand sew, whether it is gathering, sewing a binding, or even embroidering, I always use a thimble.

Not only does a thimble protect your finger from pokes, it is a useful tool to push the needle.  This prevents having to grip the needle too tightly with the thumb and forefinger, which reduces fatigue and makes neater stitches.

The thimble I like to use has a flat top with a small edge to hold the needle in place when pushing through thicker fabrics or layers of a quilt.  It has circular indentations on the tip and also has indentations on the side.  You can also push with the side of the thimble.  I wear the thimble on my middle finger.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't Fear the Zipper Foot!

Zipper FootZipper Foot BERNINA Zip Foot 4

Every sewing machine has a zipper foot (sometimes called the Zip Foot). Either the foot stays in place and the needle is moved or the foot can snap to one side or the other of the presser foot arm.

BERNINA Zip Foot 14
I like to use a zipper foot with an adjustable guide.  Normally, when you use the zipper foot to sew a zipper, you use the guide at the edge of the fabric.

But, you can feel where the zipper teeth are and use that to guide where your seam is sewn!  I find the “finger” on the end of the adjustable guide will glide right along the zipper teeth to keep your seam in the right place.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Label the Parts!

Saving yourself extra minutes and hassles!

Hold It All Shopper Lizzie Bag 

Some of my purse patterns - and especially the Hold It All Shopper, the Lizzie Bag, or the Journey Purse - have lots of pieces which are not easily identified.  They're all rectangles!  The solution to keeping yourself straight is to label the pieces.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Size Matters

Was designing purses and bags a self-preservation method because of my addiction?

I have a huge collection of bags.  Even though I don't change the purse I carry daily (I tend to haul it around until it's filthy), I love to have a new bag to switch to for a trip or event.  I tend to have multiple bags of "stuff" when I travel and have often been called the Bag Lady.

As a designer, I'm always looking to make the 'perfect' bag.  What I've found is that different bags serve different purposes, so you have to have a collection.  Great use of logic, right?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A New Look at the Jeans Purse

Upcycle Your Jeans into a Modern Bag!

We’ve all been recycling jeans into shoulder bags since I was a girl.  When I started designing bags, I challenged myself to use jeans to make classy, creative bags that are a cut above what I made in the 70s!

Any upcycling project will require “working with what you have”.  Read all instructions first, then adapt my steps to your jeans and fabric.  By repeatedly laying out and trial-fitting your pattern, you will insure having a creative, good-looking purse!

The Mess of Designing

Right now I'm in the midst of designing a new purse pattern - photos are done!

I've had some questions about my design process and although the steps are pretty structured for me, the actual process is messy!

My inspiration for new designs come from seeing an interesting pocket or closure or ideas from customers on styles they want.  Sometimes in the middle of designing one purse, I'll think of another! A new purse is sometimes born out of a complaint or question - this is a tad too small or why doesn't this one have a zipper?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's a Snap!


Ever since I first started making baby clothes, I have dreaded "hammer-on" snaps.  But now that I'm making Snap Card Cases, I found the best (and easiest) way to attach them!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is a PDF pattern?

A couple of years ago, I had no idea what a PDF pattern was either!  I've designed sewing and cross-stitch patterns for years but they were booklets with line-drawing illustrations.  Not a whole lot of color photos, as the cost to print was prohibitive.

Enter the wonderful world of computers and Adobe!  Now pattern publishers can email their customers the patterns right away. And you can download my patterns right after you pay for them in my Etsy Shop! You get the file and open with Adobe's free software.  Then you can zoom in, translate to another language, or print out at your leisure.

Features of My Patterns

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Want a Firm Bottom? (in your purse!)

Sometimes, especially if you stuff your purse like I do, its bottom tends to be droopy and/or it loses its shape.  A firm bottom can solve this.

This type of bottom is ideal for the Zippy Hobo, Jamie Purse, Tailored Tote, and Charmer Tote.

I like to make a firm bottom out of very stiff cardboard, covered in fabric.  You can cover in the same fabric you use for the lining or use a coordinating fabric.

Remember this is a removable bottom.  Remove before washing bag!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Purse Insert for your Camera

Just sharing a great tutorial for an insert to turn any purse or bag (maybe from my pattern??) into a camera bag!  Ashley has turned a creative idea into a really well-done tutorial!  See it on her Make It and Love It blog.

The Mess #3

But, really, how do you keep a bulletin board from looking like this?

It's not quite an inspiration board, more like a Memento Board.  I can't tell you how many years it's been there but it's probably about 5 years.  With older stuff added in.  There are hardly any more spaces to add new things, but what can you remove?

Some items you may spy, with your little eye:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Add Trim to Your Purse!

You know you really would like some ball fringe or fringe on that new purse!  Here's how to add it easily.

These instructions are specifically for my Zippy Crop Tote pattern, but also translate easily to my Reversible Bookbag Tote or Zippy Tote.  You can also adapt them to lots of other patterns out there!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Secret Weapon #3 - Clothespins!

Clothespins help the glue set.

Did you know you can use clothespins for other uses (other than holding clothes on the line and keeping potato chip bags closed)? They are indispensable in my sewing room.

Cheap, wooden (or plastic) clothespins are ideal for holding glued fabric together while it sets (5 minutes). For the bottom corners of purses, I simple pinch the entire bottom corner (from the inside) and clamp with the clothespins. Don’t leave them longer than 5 minutes or you may glue a clothespin to the purse!!

Oh No! Iron Mishaps

Help!  The fabric is scrunching!!  Eek, my iron changed the color!  Aargh - I've ironed interfacing to the board!!

We've all had those "oh no" experiences when sewing and ironing.  Here's a few tips for correcting them:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Make a Fabric Basket

Just in time for Easter!

Make these cute Reversible Fabric Baskets out of Jellyroll strips!

I made mine out of some jellyroll strips (I got in my "scrap bag" at Island Quilters) - it only takes 11 strips to make 2 baskets.  These are perfect for your desk to hold the mail, for your dresser to hold hairbrushes or makeup, or for your kid's small toys!  

You can even make it out of fat quarters (18" x 22") - just cut the pieces 9" wide (instead of 10").  You'll get 2 baskets out of 2 fat quarters.  Of course we've all seen sets of these - adjust the cut sizes smaller or bigger to make a set!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Mess #2

These are some of the things I use when I sew some other things.

I know it looks like everything is delicately balanced (ok, it is).  I have this handy grid with shelves and hooks that holds it all above my sewing machine.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Best Way to Use Your Tools.

bobbin holder salts your margarita
A little refreshment with your bobbin holder?

ironing your grilled cheese
Grilled cheese for when we can't leave the studio.

rotary cutting alternative
Don't lick the cutter.

sewing radio
Sewing serenade.
Happy April Fools' Day, y'all!!

Quilt Shows Are Fun!

Hilton Head Island Quit Show 2012

Unfortunately, I didn't get the name or artist of this quilt.  But I love it for the use of the  dark blue fabric in the corners of the 16-patch block.  It makes the larger, diagonal "square" look like it's notched.  I have made a similar quilt but the corner squares contrasted so the diagonal "square" doesn't connect.  I'm trying this next time.  BTW, the diagonal "square" is made of half-square triangle squares (great for leftovers from my Easy Corner Technique).

I find quilt shows fun, especially when you go with friends.  I find I can't do more than 2-3 hours, because I get overwhelmed at all the design and color.  Some friends and I made the 1 hour trek to Hilton Head Island for Palmetto Quilt Guilds biannual quilt show on Friday.  It is the perfect size show - small but a huge variety of quilts.  There are a few vendors to tempt you, also!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Make an Adjustable Strap

Some of my purse patterns include an adjustable strap (Adventure Bag, Mimi Messenger Bag, Lizzie Purse) but a couple of my patterns which could take an adjustable strap don't include the instructions. So here's a free tutorial on how to make an adjustable strap for any purse pattern that has one strap!!

The Sheila Purse & Joey Purse have a long strap which I use cross-body or as a shoulder strap.  But you can use these instructions to make a longer strap that can adjust!  In my patterns, it works for these 2 purses or for the Travel Purse or even the Jamie Purse!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sewing Machine Needles

The biggest mistake most of my students make is not changing the needle often enough in their sewing machine! You will get a better stitch and less puckering with a new needle. Needles develop burrs and slight bends as you sew, so change your needle after about 10 hours of sewing or at least with every large project. Don't wait for it to start making a clicking sound (that's the sound of the needle hitting the hook and can damage your machine).

Always match your needle to the project - the weight and type of fabric you're using and the size thread. Knit projects should be stitched with a ball-point needle. A universal needle is actually between a sharp and a ball point and can be used for many types of fabrics. However, with cotton woven fabrics I like to use a sharp. In fact, when I make my purses I like to use a Jeans/Denim needle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Secret Weapon #2 - Fabric Glue

Fabric Glue is my most important secret weapon! I have tried just about all of them and ALWAYS come back to Unique Stitch. There are several reasons I like this glue best of all.

Other permanent fabric glues STINK! I mean, really! I used one that never did stop smelling, even after it dried (that pretty much ruined that purse). Unique Stitch has almost no smell.

Even though it seems a little thin, it actually holds exceptionally well fabric to fabric. I find that pressure helps - holding the fabric with a clothespin for ONLY 5 minutes gives an incredibly strong hold. More than 5 minutes can sometimes cause the glue to ooze to the front of the fabric too much; 5 minutes gives it a nice set.

What do I glue? The bottom, squared-off, corners of my purses are always glued. It gives them extra strength and body and a finished look.

You can also use a tiny dab of Unique Stitch to repair missed seams in a quilt or even a split seam (glue the split part to the remaining seam allowance.

I love my Unique Stitch. Do you have a secret weapon you love?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Decorative Threads!

 This is my box of decorative threads.  Look inviting?

I have a decorative thread obsession.  If I see a rack of glittery thread, I have to have at least one.  And variegated thread always catches my eye!

The Mess #1

my almost-tumped-over shelft
My almost-tumped-over shelf.
Now that's what I call a messy pile.  It's actually some shelves - those cube types that are metal screens held together with the black plastic round devices you can see on the front.

Can you see?
  • box of embroidery thread
  • can of spray air
  • magnetic wand (to pick up pins)
  • bag crocheted out of plastic shopping bag strips
  • almost finished quilt (just need to bind it)
  • small fan
  • 2 quilt tops
  • various loose spools which didn't get put up 
  • several shoeboxes of scraps
  • a kit for a purse (UFO*) *Un Finished Object
You can also see they're about to fall down - or "tump" over as we say down South!  Every once in a while I take all the stuff off, put the cubes back together, then put everything back on!  I agree, I'm hopeless... 

And you can't even see the bottom cube!  Have you got a pile like this?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Secret Weapon #1 Magic Eraser!

If you use fusibles your iron will get dirty! When you see brown/black gunk on the surface of your iron you need to clean it. Otherwise the gunk will be rubbing off on whatever you iron.

My secret...
I've heard of people using Spray and Wash (not so much success) and commercial iron cleaner (Dritz makes a good one if I remember to buy it at the fabric store). But the best cleaner I found is Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

  • Dampen it just a little.
  • Use on a COOL iron.
  • Rub in circles.
  • When the eraser gets dirty, use a new spot.
  • When the eraser gets all mashed up, throw it away!
  • Clean often and you won't have to clean it (rub it) as much!!

Got any secret weapons you love? Watch this spot as I will be posting ALL of my secrets (you lucky people!!). 

What's the big deal about thread?

Using the right thread can make a big difference in your stitches!  When I first started sewing, I bought whatever thread was on sale and lots of it.  You couldn't keep me away from the 5 for $1.00 bin.  I was a self-taught sewer and I figured the cheaper the thread, the more fabric I could buy.  Big mistake!

Thread is made up of strands of fiber which is twisted into shape.  The best thread to use is "long-staple" - it's made with a much longer fiber so it has a smoother finish.  Threads are also specially finished to smooth them out.  The fuzzier the thread, the cheaper it is and the worst it will look in your project!

The best thread manufacturers are Mettler and Guterman.  They can be trusted to use the best long staple cotton and other fibers.  I also use Coats & Clark for garments as their thread is very strong.  For fun projects, I'm a fan of variegated thread and metallics. 

When you buy thread, look at its fuzziness, test the strength (pull it between two hands until it breaks) and examine its smoothness.

In my own little corner...

Sewing Machine area
Don't we all like to have everything "at hand"?  That's my excuse!

Here's a view of my sewing machine.  It's on the perfect table for me - a sturdy Horn compact sewing table with an insert made to fit my Bernina 1630.  With my pins (2 kinds of course!) & scissors handy. 

I have various tools & inspiration stuck on the wall behind a box with my neutral threads, pencils, seam ripper, 6" ruler, duster, etc. contained.

My ironing board sits to the left of my sewing area, where it's convenient.  I'm spoiled with a giant area to iron!  It's a padded plywood board I made years ago - with a layer of batting and an old wool blanket covered with myriad layers of muslin.  Every time it gets burn or torn, I just add another cover.

In the background, what can you spy?  I am quite a collector!!

I find this arrangement to most convenient to sew most things.  But if I'm quilting, I have to slide the table back to get more room!

What's your sewing area like?  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm here to sew...

Welcome to my messy studio!!

My goal is to make life (sewing, anyhow) easier with the tricks I've picked up over the years!  I'll also be letting you know fun things about my patterns and I'll throw in a tutorial every once in a while.  

I think I may actually post some pictures of my real messy studio, too.  Just to make you feel better.  After all, if you're not making a mess, you're not making anything...

Hope you all like it!  Let me know any questions your have or subject you'd like me to cover.  The fun thing about sewing is the interaction of stitchers!!