Category Archives: Sewing FYI

Expensive Pattern Tips

I love to buy patterns. I manage to buy most of my big 4 (Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick and Simplicity) dirt cheap at sales, but I also like buying patterns from independent companies such as Colette or Megan Nielsen. For those of you that have not tried one of these brands yet, let me show you a little about why they are more expensive.

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Yes, it says suggested retail $18. It is rare to see them marked down much. In case you can’t tell this envelope is thick.

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The pattern is printed on a more substantial paper than the tissue you find in the big 4. That book I am holding there contains the instructions.

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Here is a page out of the instruction booklet. It is very detailed and step by step. This is nice for people new to sewing garments. Sometimes the company will host a sew along for their pattern which includes alterations and ideas to try. I find these an invaluable resource. I posted on my blog a while back how I use these patterns in case I want to change sizes later on. This allows me to trace them without cutting the original.

I trace the pattern with a Sharpie in the size I need to make it darker.

I then trace the pattern in the size I need onto Swedish Tracing Paper along with any necessary markings. Why Swedish Tracing Paper? (That link is to the store on Etsy I buy it from. Support small business!)You can actually sew it together. This makes for easy pattern fittings. I just baste it, then rip it out to ensure the right parts hit in the right places. This also allows you to make any adjustments you know you need without destroying your original pattern.

“OK, stupid Stacie Thinks She Knows it All, now I have Sharpie all over my floor!”

I tell you what, Magic Eraser by Mr. Clean takes anything off the laminate flooring (and tile) including Sharpie!

About 10 minutes of extra work and your expensive pattern is still in tact and you have a personalized pattern in just your size with any adjustments you need already made! I usually include the pattern name, size and number of pieces to make it easy when I want to make it again later.

Now, I don’t do this on my patterns that go on clearance at Joann’s, but for my well loved, tried and true and expensive patterns, I don’t know a better way to do it! You can also use this when tracing patterns out of magazines.

Knit tips

I admit while I love sewing knits I still have mixed results. I was working on a dress today that is very simple to help me practice. I thought I would share a few things.

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First of all, most knits come about 60 inches wide. That is nice because knit patterns seem too use less fabric.

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The above picture is for example. I got all the ripples out before I cut my pattern. Yes, my dress pattern is two pieces, has no darts or closures. That is another bonus when working with knits. The patterns are usually less complicated. Back on subject: This pattern called for the fabric to be laid out with selvedges together which made for two folds on which to cut the dress front and back. I find laying out my knit fabric in this way is a challenge. The best way I have found is to make a small snip in the center of the fabric on both ends and work from there to bring the selvedge edges together. Be patient and really be sure you have all the ripples out.

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I like to use scissors to cut mine out, and I do use pins to keep it all together. Go slow. I also make my marks as I go in case there is any fabric slippage by the time I get all the way around the pattern piece.

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To create my seams I use my serger. The picture above is my hem. First, I like to serge the raw edge of my hem. Knits do not unravel, so this is not totally necessary, however I feel it gives me more control when finishing my hem and gives it a nicer look on the inside.

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To finish my hem I use my sewing machine. I chose to do a 3/4 inch hem, so I placed my magnet at the 3/4 inch mark on my sewing machine. I do this to be sure I stay accurate since knits cannot be pressed into place as easily as woven fabrics. I then sew along the serged edge using a thin zig zag stitch. On this dress I could have probably straight stitched, but I zig zagged because that is how I was trained. When sewing knits a zig zag on the sewing machine stretches, where a straight stitch does not. When you sew with a straight stitch if you stretch the fabric you can pop your stitches open.

If you have not sewn with knits I suggest trying it. Just go slow and do some research.

You can see my finished dress on my blog.

Adding pockets to pajama pants

A lot of blogs I read participated in the Pyjama Party online yesterday. I showed up a day late and made an old standby – McCalls 5248 pajama pants out of seer sucker. I wear my flannel pants all the time, but it is getting hot, and flannel is no longer practical. One thing I always wish my pants had was pockets, so this time around I added some.

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Sorry for the grainy photo. I just couldn’t bother anyone to take pictures of me in pajamas today.

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I started with the pattern for the pocket from a dress I really like. I cut the pockets out of quilting cotton because seer sucker pockets would get bulky. Cut 4 – two for each side.

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Next I laid my fabric pieces out right next to each other and lined up the tops straight across.

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I measured down four inches from the top and made a mark on my pattern on the outsides of both legs.

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I lined up the top marking of the pocket with my 4″ line and also marked the bottom mark of the pocket on my pattern.

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Next I marked both marks on all four pieces of fabric. This pattern has you sew the inside leg seam firt, so I did that. But I added a couple steps before I sewed the outside seam.

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My pattern called for a 5/8″ seam allowance, so I sewed the pockets right sides together with the fabric using the same on both front and back pieces.

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I zigzagged along the edge of the raw edges of the pockets and fabric. I pressed both the pocket and seam allowance toward the outside.

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You should now have two pieces that look like this. Next my pattern directs mt to sew outside leg seams together.

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I like to pin the seam allowances together as well as a pin in the center of the pocket to keep everything in place.

ImageNow sew down the leg seam from top to bottom with right sides together going around the perimeter of the pocket instead of going straight down the leg.

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I serged around the edges to finish the seam, but as you can see the pocket is not perfect. It is trying to serge curves like that. I’m OK with it.

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I like to stick my hand in the pocket at this point for a finger check. That means do my fingers find any holes that I may have left in the pocket. All clear! Now continue sewing as directed!

I will be giving a new McCalls 5248 pattern away on my blog, so be sure to visit there.

Bolster Pillow Tutorial

I just made a new cover for an old bolster pillow that had been sitting in the closet for years. It was a fast and easy project!

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Believe it or not this was the best shot I could get because my assistant there is blocking out the extreme  light coming through the window. I am loving the black out curtain linings!

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Here are the two pillows I had before. The purple one had a zippered cover and the red one was a cheapy just filled with Poly-fil. I pulled the bolster shaped filler out of the purple one to work with.

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I found a saucer that was a little bit larger than the round end of my pillow.

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I used my plate to make a circle for both ends of the bolster by tracing a line around the outside of it.

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Next I cut a piece of fabric just a bit longer than my bolster. After I measured around my plate I found my fabric needed to be 24 inches long plus one inch for adding the zipper.

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Sew your zipper right sides together with your fabric .

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Flip your fabric out and top stitch it down to your zipper tape.

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Repeat the steps to attache the other side of your zipper. Sew it right sides together with the other end of your piece of fabric.

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You will have to open your zipper up to top stitch along this side.

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Your zipper tube should look like the one above.

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Now place a circle piece right sides together with your zipper tube. Pin them together and go slow. It is a bit tricky sewing this circle on, but you can do it.

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I turned mine right sides out to check I had gotten it all sewn together. Before sewing your next circle on, open your zipper up some, so you don’t sew your cover shut.

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Sew your other circle to the open side of the bolster case. Again pin and go slow. As you can see mine is not perfect, but you can’t tell once it is turned right sides out. Once it is sewn turn it right side out and stuff it with your pillow form.

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And enjoy!

You can see more of me (and my four legged assistant) at Stacie Thinks She Can.

Dog Bed Makeover

I absolutely love my dog. She is my best buddy and super assistant, but I’ll be honest. She has hideous taste in sleepwear. I buy her cute dog beds with shaping or cool designs and she just is not interested. This has been her go to for years now:

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It is a big pillow covered with lumberjack chic fleece with a zipper along the side. It is the cheapest dog bed ever. I bought it for $10 at Walgreen’s and it is all she uses. She also has it in tiger print in the bedroom. She totally pulls that one off, but the plaid one is in the living room and no longer matches my new super cute curtains. Now it looks like this:

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Still lumpy, but that is what she likes. At least now it is a great print that is the same color as my curtains. Here is how I did it.

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I wanted to reuse the zipper because it is so long, so I ripped it out.

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Like my new band-aid? Patrick from Sponge Bob Square Pants would like to remind us all that seam rippers are sharp. 🙂

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I got one yard of each of these to match my other home decor fabric. I love the chevrons, but decided to use the polka dot for her bed because I think it would show less dirt.

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I used a chenille for the bottom and just cut it about one inch bigger than the inner pillow of the bed.

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I cute my top fabric the same size as my bottom fabric.

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Place the zipper right sides together along one short side of your fabric and sew down the edge using your  zipper foot.

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Then flip your fabric right side up and top stitch your fabric to your zipper tape.

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Now sew the other side of the zipper right sides together with your bottom fabric using the same process.

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I noticed a lot of fabric shedding while I was sewing my zipper, so instead of flipping and top stitching like I did before I used my serger to finish the edge of the zipper tape to the bottom fabric. You could just top stitch it like we did on the main fabric.

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Now open your zipper a bit so you don’t sew your cover shut and sew around the edges of the three remaining sides right sides of the fabric together.

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My zipper was plastic, so I just sewed right over it about three times to secure it. If your zipper is metal do not sew over it. Do what you need to to avoid the needle hitting the metal zipper teeth.

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I serged my edges when I was done to finish them, but you could just pinking shear them.

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Turn your case right sides out, and make sure your zipper works.

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Reinsert your pillow and zip up. You’re done!

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Well, almost. Make sure it feels right to your best buddy. Now her bed looks super cute in the living room. Thanks for reading, and as always I would love to see if you make one.

 You can see more of me (and my four legged assistant) at Stacie Thinks She Can.

Easy Panel Curtains

I had a friend come over and teach me how to make panel curtains. I used hardware I bought  from Ikea that the curtains clipped onto, so I didn’t even need to make a pocket for a rod. The results were beautiful, and I wanted to share her method with you.

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The fabric is the same color blue as my table cloth and valance. They make my living room feel bigger and   finished.

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Here is the before shot. There was nothing wrong with the old curtains, but they were so dark. They were also thinly lined and that window gets direct sunlight in the afternoon. I also have a window next t the brown couch you can’t see that had no curtains at all. It’s just one of those things I always meant to get around to.

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There wasn’t a specific method to measurement on this, but I would estimate we cut the fabric and lining 10 inches longer than the length of the window. I did not cut the width of the fabric. I used the full panel. Both the fabric and the lining measured 54 inches. I used two full panels on my 75 inch window and one panel cut in half on my 36 inch window.

ImageI placed the lining fabric on the floor and smoothed it out. I used a blackout lining which felt kind of like plastic and was afraid to press it. In the end all the wrinkles worked themselves out. I placed the lining with the right side facing down.

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Next place the fabric on top right side facing up. Your lining and fabric should right wrong sides together.

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Then I pinned the fabric together along the two long sides and one short side.

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Next slowly baste the fabric and lining together along one short side and one long side. It was nice to have a second person to help me deal with that much fabric. It wasn’t hard to do, but it was heavy. Also, I found sewing with the fabric side up kept me from stretching out the lining as I went.

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Now lay it back out and check the pins on your remaining side. If any ripples formed readjust the pins and continue basting the other long and short side. As you can see, I got some ripple in mine. Once your fabric is basted you will treat it as one piece of fabric.

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If you are making two panels out of your one piece of cloth this is the time to cut it as needed and go ahead and baste the fabric together again on the newly cut edge.

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Trim off any excess fabric or lining that may happen. I did not get very much of extra to trim off. Next I double folded the fabric to hide any raw edges and pinned it around both long sides and one short side. Because I had striped fabric, I cheated. I did not measure. I simply followed the edge of a stripe to ensure it would be straight. Making striped curtains really has its benefits!

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I can’t resist a shot of my assistant wondering if we will ever get to stop pinning! When you are finally done pinning go ahead and sew all the way around where you just pinned.

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 I laid the panels out again at this point to check for anything weird, but everything looked good.

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Now go hang your panel up. You finally get a peek at how your curtains will look! This is also how we hemmed them.

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Pull the bottom of your curtain a few inches out from the wall and pin along the bottom where it is touching the floor. My friend Holly said that is how you get a hem that will just skim the floor. It worked! If you look closely you can just see a pin on each side. If you are hemming a wider curtain you will want more than two pins. For some reason I just got better pictures of the thin paneled curtain hem.

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Take the curtain back down and head to your machine to hem it. I left my pin in and simple double folded the curtain so that my pin was still at the bottom. Next I stitched all the way across. Again, with a wider panel we used the same concept. We just pinned more and went a little slower.

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Now you have custom made floor skimming panel curtains! I completed this project over two evenings. I would say total time spent on all curtains was about five hours. It is not hard just a lot of fabric to contend with.

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Here is the view of my side window curtains from behind my monster television. I have not jumped on the flat screen trend yet. I just love the look of the final results! I find myself standing in my living room and just looking at the difference these curtains made. I can also see my dining room from the living room and my living room from my kitchen, so having this blue in all the rooms provides a nice sense of continuity. I have some more leftover fabric again, so expect to see accessories!

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Again, here is the front window with the large panels. Thanks for reading, and I hope you will share pictures of you make any of the projects featured here.

To read more from Stacie you can visit her personal blog here.

Kitchen Valance Tutorial

After my table cloth success, I decided I would make a little valance for my kitchen window. It changes the feel of the whole kitchen! I love it!

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And it looks great from the dining room, where the same fabric makes up my new tablecloth. As you can see I have a narrow little kitchen, so a valance was the best choice for me. I feel like anything bigger would have been too much.

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Here is what I did I cut a piece of fabric about 25 inches by width of fabric. I wanted my valance to be about a foot tall. I thumbtacked my fabric up over the window and eyeballed the width.

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I added about 2 inches past the width of my window and cut the excess fabric off. Take it down and get it back into the sewing area!

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I pressed both the sides of my valance in a half inch and pressed. I then sewed that half inch in along both edges.

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In this picture I have sewed down both sides. On the right side I just pressed in my selvedge and sewed it down. Then I took the piece of fabric and folded it right sides together.

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I sewed a seam all the way across the top. I reversed it at the beginning and end of the stitch.

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You should have a fabric tube with no raw edged. Go ahead and turn it right side out.

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I pressed that seam open, then I pressed it so that it was even across the top.

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I used a cheap tension rod from Target that required a one inch opening. I followed along my guide to make a one inch seam below the top of the valance.

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Your valance should look like this all the way across the top.

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I slipped my tension rod in the top and hung it up! All steps included this probably took about 20 minutes to make. I can’t believe I did not do this sooner!

Note 2 our Readers:  Find even more adventures from Stacie at her personal Sewing Blog