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!!