Seatbelt Covers

When you’re short, no matter how you try positioning your car seatbelt, the belt cuts into your neck when you’re wearing a t-shirt, or low cut top of some sort. In winter it’s not a problem but when I’m wearing light clothing I definitely have a problem.

A gazillion years ago a friend brought me a pair of seatbelt covers from Hawaii, of all places. I guess because they wear light clothing year round it was a solution to a pervasive problem, there. In any case, when that set of covers wore out, I made myself a new pair. Other people wanted some, so I did a small production. Each time I replace my old seatbelt covers, I make a batch for gifts.

8 Sets of Seatbelt Covers

The set I made for myself used a large floral print in red (I have a bright red car). Print fabric doesn’t wear as well as batik but I liked the colour. However, I’d bought these three batik fabrics on sale several weeks ago precisely with seatbelt covers in mind.

They’re easy to make.

  1. Cut a 7″ strip of fabric from the width of fabric (WOF), then cut that strip in half giving you two pieces – 7″ x 22″ each. Cut a piece of batting 6″ x 21 1/2″; lay it down the middle of the fabric aligning it with the cut fabric end, leaving the selvage edge with the fabric extended beyond the batting a wee bit. Fold the cut end about 1/3 of the way over the batting, bring the selvedge edge over that end and stitch at the selvege edge to secure both the fabric and batting. (Those are the two seams you see in the middle of the cover.) In other words, the overlapping seam which joins the ends of the fabric ends up in the middle of what will be the “under” side of the cover. The finished length of the cover should be close to 11″.
  2. Cut Velcro hooks and loops paired strips 10 1/2″ in length. Sew the loops (loop side up) to one long edge on the “top” side of the cover, turn the cover over, fold in the loop tape, tuck the top edge of fabric beneath the loop strip, then sew the other edge of the loop tape in place, turning under the bit of fabric extending beyond the Velcro when you get to the end. (That’s the seam you see along the length of the cover.)
  3. Attach the hooks strip to the second long side of the cover, again sewing first on the “top” side, then folding the tape to the under side and stitching it down.
  4. Fold the cover in half, and press the loops and hooks together. That’s it. You’re done!

Here is a link to instructions with photos that I provided the last time I made seatbelt covers.

BTW, this is all procrastination – I’ve got to get going on a new quilt and I have no idea what to make. I’ve been looking at photos on Pinterest looking for something interesting to tackle.

There are lots of interesting possibilities for improvisation:

I don’t have patterns, just ideas. Laid out like this, the Blocks and Stripes, and colourful Drunkard’s Path seem to be calling. Next step – go through fabric scraps and see what I can find there before going through the larger fabrics in my stash. I just gotta get started on something….

Quilter’s Block

You know about writer’s block – well, I’m experiencing “quilter’s block”.

I finished my last quilt about a month ago. I would normally start a new quilt right away – with a surfeit of fabric in my stash it usually isn’t hard to pull out a stack and begin something new.

This time there were a couple of subtle pressures interfering with my moving ahead: my reserve of small zippered bags was just about empty, I still have that Kantha jacket to remake for Marlene (that’s been hanging around for months, not quite making it to the top of my list, despite taking some seams apart, basting them together and trying the adjustment for fit – not quite right yet again), two aprons for a friend, and the microwave potato bags I was originally planning as gifts for the Friday knitting gals! (Oh yes, and an heirloom nightgown as a demonstration piece although that weekend workshop didn’t happen.)

In fact, three weeks ago, I bought a collection of new fabric – only because it was on sale at half price – not because I needed more fabric! I chose the central fabric, a William Morris inspired print, then built a collection around it. I felt inspired to work with a “Drunkard’s Path” block again. I cut 6″ strips from each of the new fabrics plus several more that complemented the others, I cut one set of 6″ blocks (two from each fabric), then cut the paired shapes which make up a Drunkard’s Path block.

I laid out contrasting pairs using some William Morris fabric in each block. I moved the elements around but the fabrics didn’t speak to me at all. I turned the photo into a black and white – there lurked a surprise:

The majority of my fabrics read as “medium” with the wrong ones reading “dark” and few “light”. The William Morris fabric was actually one of the “medium” fabrics – not a dark. I tried again with fewer colour elements.

By removing four fabrics the colour values balanced better but I still wasn’t inspired. I realized my problem was with the original focal fabric! While I like the William Morris fabric, it pulled me into a set of rather dull colours. No “pop”. These fabrics would make a nice quilt but not one I was going to enjoy working on.

I walked away from even sewing these Drunkard’s Path blocks – I gathered up the pieces and put them away in one of my scrap boxes.

The “cure” for writer’s block is to write. Write gibberish, free write, keep writing anything whether it comes together or not. Just write.

That’s what I did. I cut the remainder of the 6″ strips of these fabrics into zippered bag rectangles, found a suitable fabric for lining and got to work making zippered bags!

The first batch used the quilt fabrics with a strong accent fabric and contrasting zipper and pull. For the second batch I dug through scraps for bright complementary fabrics. The third batch used up pieces from a sample set of blue.

In two days I made 34 zippered bags.

My Current Stash Of Zippered Bags

With “small zippered bags” off my list, two days ago I turned to microwave potato bags. A microwave potato bag is used to bake potatoes in the microwave – the potatoes come out fluffy rather than gluey. You use two pieces of fabric and some microwaveable batting. Takes 20 minutes to make one.

Wanting to be economical with my fabric, I cut 10″ x 22″ rectangles from two of the duller fabrics I’d originally intended to use with the William Morris fabric. (That’s the equivalent of 4 bags/meter of fabric.) Added some microwaveable “Wrap ‘n Zap” batting (which comes in a 22″ width very convenient – that, as well, gives you 4 bags/metre).

I layered the fabrics right sides together, placed the batting on top, stitched around the outer edges leaving a 4″ opening on one side, pressed the panel, stitched the opening closed. Then I folded the fabric to make a pouch, stitched down the open sides, and there was my finished microwave potato pouch.

Microwave Potato Bag

It took three tries before I streamlined the process – 1. Leave the opening to turn the bag right side out on one of the short sides rather than along one of the long sides; 2. Make the stitch around gap at least 4″ – widen enough to get your hand in so you can turn the pouch right side out easily; 3. Don’t bother stitching around the outside of the finished rectangle, just edge stitch across the end with the opening; 4. Stitch the two side seams 1/4″ from the edge going more slowly where the two ends overlap – it’s thick there, you need to allow the machine time to pierce the overlapped layers.

I’ve got three microwave potato bags done, five more are cut out ready to sew.

When those are finished, I’ll work on the two aprons – I bought a canvas fabric yesterday that should be a good weight for an apron.

Finally, I will take that Kantha jacket completely apart and recut the fronts, back and sleeves so the jacket will hang better. It’s not a humungous job, but it’s one I find myself resisting. But with the other stuff done I will tackle it.

As for a new quilt. I’m looking for something modern and bright to work on. I’ve taken the pressure off myself to be creative, just be productive.

That’s enough for the moment.

Kantha to Jacket

I’m getting organized to do a day long workshop in February on taking a Kantha bedspread and turning it into a jacket. I’ve probably explained what a Kantha is before but I’ll do it here again:

Kantha (meaning: “patched cloth”) refers both to the tradition of producing unique, quilted blankets (making something useful and beautiful out of discarded items), as well as the craft and stitch itself (a small, straight running stitch in Bengali embroidery). Here’s a link describing the work: https://www.shopdignify.com/pages/what-is-kantha

I got my inspiration from Meiko Mintz’s wonderful Kantha garments!

Here is my latest Kantha – a heavily embroidered pieced silk bedspread (with beading I’m going to have to watch carefully as I cut and sew the fabric):

A Silk Embroidered Kantha

The Meiko Mintz jackets are large and flowing

I’d love to wear something like that but I look better in a more tailored shape. In any case, I have pulled a bunch of jacket patterns from my pattern collection to share with the gals enrolled in the workshop.

I wouldn’t make any of these jackets as they are, but they provide ideas (and sizes) for necklines, front openings, pocket placement, sleeve shape and fit that give us a place to start. I’ll be suggesting the gals check out the Peppermint “West End Jacket”– it doesn’t look like anything but the pattern has lots of potential. It’s actually free but you can make a donation to Peppermint (which I did). You can download an A0 version as well as the tape-together PDF download. I was able to have the A0 version printed on large paper. Much easier to work from.

Now I have to modify and trace the Peppermint pattern pieces. I intend making the collar wider and pointed, I will keep the front drop shoulder but delete the back yoke (keeping the placement of the shoulder seam), change the patch pockets to welt pockets, make the jacket a bit longer and compensate by adding a couple of extra inches to the front so the jacket hangs straight, add a bit of flare to the front (not the back – I want the back to hang straight). Next I will trace the modified pattern pieces in my size, cut them out and start to play with placement on the Kantha – I want to showcase as much of the elaborate embroidery as possible, avoiding beading where I can (removing beads if I can’t miss cutting or sewing into them).

I’ve sent the gals a blurb about supplies and other information they need so they’re prepared for our Feb 25th day. I’m looking forward to seeing what they end up creating!

Another Heirloom Project

Two weeks ago I was asked by a local sewing guild to offer a day-long workshop for the members. “What are you wanting to learn?” I asked. “Whatever you’d like to do,” the gal answered. No help whatsoever. I gave her four suggestions – she wanted me to describe them for her in an email, which I did. She emailed me a week later asking me to consider doing heirloom embroidery with the group.

The challenge was this: I spent over an hour online trying to find suitable patterns with a reasonable size front yoke that would work well for displaying heirloom techniques. I could find none.

The Hawaiian muumuu pattern I have used for close to 50 years doesn’t exist any longer, can’t hardly find a photo of it on the internet! It has 5 different sizes (from XS to XL) and I’ve traced the pattern for each size on Swedish cloth so they’re copyable but I don’t want to spend a lot of time at the workshop tracing and adapting the pattern. So I spent a couple of hours earlier this week trying to find a suitable pattern and finally came across this Bowen Dress

Bowen Dress (Peppermint)

It has a yoke that extends into the sleeves (ditch the sleeve ruffles! and add a “cuff” with a lace join and some decorative stitching either side of the join) – the yoke has an overlap that can be worn front or back (I’m eliminating that), the dress is humungous but the fullness can be scaled down easily by narrowing both yoke and skirt. I will remove the button opening at the top and lengthen as well as curve the bottom of the skirt in the front to offset the pulling up by the bust – all straight forward modifications.

I printed out the PDF and assembled the pattern and have marked it up although I haven’t yet traced the modified pattern pieces (I’ll do that later).

What I did was measure the width and depth of the front yoke, cut a piece of white batiste and started working on an heirloom panel.

Heirloom Panel Start

So far I have a centre piece of lace, with tucks, hemstitching, and pin tucks on either side. I plan on extending the heirloom work into the top of the sleeve area, although not all the way to where I’ll add the cuff.

For now, I’ll carry on with the heirloom work. Once I have the yoke panel done, I’ll trace the modified pattern pieces, cut out and sew the upper part of the dress then figure out how narrow and long to make the skirt!

I figured if I was suggesting this pattern as a starting point for an heirloom nightgown, I should try making one myself to see where the pitfalls might be. Once I’ve figured out the modifications I want to make, I’ll prepare instructions for the gals. They can choose to make the dress as is, or to change it in whatever way they wish. I’ll be prepared with recommendations.

Order Of Contruction

This afternoon I watched Janet Pray’s discussion of “order of construction” (at 3:50 minutes when Janet arrives on the scene) – the order in which you construct garments – something I learned from her several years ago (actually in 2010) when I attended a shirt-making week with her in Ancaster (near Hamilton ON). Up to that point I more or less followed pattern instructions like the rest of us home sewers, but Janet’s explanation of how to think about garment construction based on the idea of “sew on the flat” changed how I approached any garment making I undertook from that point on.

Industrial sewing is based on the easiest, most efficient way of constructing garments – that means all the prep work is done first – everything is cut out at the same time – outer garment, lining if there is one, interfacings. Next all interfacings are applied to the appropriate pieces, all exposed edges (like the open edge of a facing) are finished (either by serging, or turning under, or with a Hong Kong finish).

Then pockets are constructed and stitched to flat pieces to which they belong, plackets in shirt sleeves, shirt fronts, pant fronts (a fly front is really a kind of placket) are also constructed before the garment is assembled. Collar/collar stand are sewn so they’re ready to be attached after the shoulder seams are stitched, or the neckline facing is prepared at the same time you’re doing all the other facings.

You can see what I’m getting at here – all the detail embellishment is much easier to do while the main pieces are still separate and “flat”.

Pull-on Corduroy Pants Under Construction

Here’s my current project – a pair of cords. I followed the order of construction – first I sewed/serged the centre back seam in both back pieces (this back seam is really a teardrop dart that takes out the fullness under the bum and back thigh area of my pants because all pants are too baggy in the bum for me – this solution gives me a decent silhouette and fit). Then I pressed the seam open, edge stitched it flat, pressed again.

Next I constructed the pockets. I fused interfacing to the front pocket facing and back pocket top flap, serged exposed edges, stitched front pocket facing to pocket, pressed, edge stitched, turned and stitched facing in place; serged exposed top edge of pocket flap, folded right sides together, sewed side edges of flap, turned right sides out, pressed, top stitched flap in place. Pockets ready, I pinned them to the corresponding pieces.

Tomorrow I’ll edge stitch the pockets in place, sew the inner leg seam, then the outer leg seam, slide one side into the other side and sew the crotch seam (which I’ll edge stitch for strength). I’ll serge the hem edge and add the waist facing. Once the facing is attached I’ll thread elastic through, hem the bottoms (using my coverstitch machine) and the pants are done.

I could easily have put in a faux fly front as a decorative detail – but since any top I put on will cover the top of the pants there really isn’t any reason to do that bit of extra work.

If you’ve not thought about “order of construction” for garment sewing I recommend watching Janet’s explanation.

6×6 – Six Finished

I’ve been procrastinating the past week – no idea why – but today I got back to the two 6×6 pieces I had 1/2 finished and completed them.

There are now six. [The outline is done with a Frixion heat-erasable pen. I’ll remove it when I’m ready to mount the individual pieces on the 6×6 stretched canvas frames.]

6×6 Six Finished

I have another couple of hours this afternoon – there are four 6×6 prepared – I’ll get a start on the edge stitching for a couple of them.

iPhone Case – Revised

I’m scheduled to teach a class at Sew With Vision in a couple of weeks on constructing a smartphone carry case. I’ve written about the simple version I started with that had a single zippered side pocket. This version has two zippered front pockets as well to hold credit cards and other cards like health card, driver’s license, car insurance – the stuff you need to have on hand (not just photos on your phone). With these two additional pockets I no longer need carry a purse.

I made this case 3/8″ wider than the previous version to make it easier to slide cards into the zippered pockets. Both of these cases are “right-handed” – that is the zippers are positioned to be easily opened using your right hand. To make these cases “left-handed” reverse the closed position of the front zippers and place the side zipper on the opposite side.

I fully intended documenting the process while making the leather case but the process took over and I didn’t have the photos I needed to describe how to make the case. I made a second from linen (using fusible batting to stabilize the linen). I thought about adding embroidery but because the case is for demonstration purposes I decided it wasn’t worth taking the time. The only “decorative” feature are the bi-colour front zippers (the side zipper is a single colour because I used zipper tape and a pull).

The basic construction is still the same as the earlier version with the added work needed for creating the zippered front pockets. Here’s a link to the instructions for

iPhone Case With Two Front Pockets + Side Pocket.

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. My measurements are for an iPhone 12 Pro (3″ x 6″). Measure your phone and modify the specifications to work with your phone.

Carryin’ On

Block #4

This morning’s project was to complete Block #4. I’m getting more efficient at embellishing the raw edge appliqué, applying stems and leaves, and signature. A bit less than three hours. I’ve built up a library of “edge” stitches, and “leaf” shapes so I’m not spending time browsing and modifying my machine’s stitches to find something to use.

Block #5 tomorrow.

Sweatshirt Makeover

In just under two weeks I’m teaching a class “Sweatshirt Makeover” – intended to explore remaking and/or embellishing an old sweater, plain jacket, or sweatshirt to give it new life.

I did a couple many years ago:

The “Iris Appliqué” was my very first attempt at raw edge appliqué! I added irises to both front and back of the shirt. Several years later my sister brought me two molas from Costa Rica – I fused this bird mola to the front of a black sweatshirt and framed the edges; I still have the fish packed away in a drawer.

There are two aspects to a sweatshirt makeover – you can embellish it (taking particular care to fuse fabric over old stains or holes you want to hide); or you can remodel it – turn a pullover sweatshirt into a jacket with buttons or zipper or snaps. You can remove cuffs from sleeves or hem. Change the neckline. Lots of possibilities.

I didn’t have another old sweatshirt on hand so I went to Mission Mart (a local used clothing depot) to see what I could find. I came across a grey zippered fleece jacket (which was on the small side). So I decided to take out the zipper, remove the collar, shorten the sleeves, reshape the front edges so they’d hang better when I added two centre panels which I intend closing with buttons.

The next decision was how to embellish it. I decided simply to use the “modern flowers” theme I’ve been working on for the 6×6 wall art. I selected a bunch of batik circles, fused them onto the back and fronts of the jacket. Today I started edge stitching the circles and I added stems and leaves to finish the left front.

At the moment, I don’t know what to use to widen the front of the jacket (I need about 5″ in total for the jacket to fall loosely). I have a couple half-yards of wool fabric which might work with the fleece – I have to make a trip to Fabricville to see if I can find a double sided grey fleece (or some other colour) that might work with the jacket.

Or I may never do any more on this project – I’ve done enough to illustrate how you might think about doing a makeover and take this project as is to the shop to put on display to advertise the class.

Two Serger Tips

How long have I owned a serger? It’s gotta be close to 25 years. Most of the serger sewing I do works perfectly fine and I’m happy with it. However, when I need to sew in the round (like when attaching the neckband to a t-Shirt, or at the bottom edge of pants), when I stitch past the place where I started, I end up trimming the edge of the beginning stitches. It annoys me – I usually end up zig-zagging across that small part of the edge. The other day, I figured out how to solve that problem (although why it’s taken me 25 years to do that, I don’t know!).

Normal Knife Position

This is the normal cutting position with the knife blade (upper right corner) in the up position beside the presser foot (and the small white knob on the left with no writing).

Knife-down Position

I realized the other day that when I reached the place where I started stitching in the round all I had to do was lower the knife to the down/lock position (below the presser foot, in line with the needle plate, with the small knob on the left showing “lock”), and here’s what I get:

Round Serged Seam Join

No trimmed stitches! I can connect the join and not worry about that centimetre of trimmed stitches in front of where I stopped serging! (The trimming happens because the cutting knife is in front of the needles and trims the seam edge before it gets sewn – in the round it catches and trims the already serged edge.)

I have a second tip. The other day, I was helping a friend set up her new coverstitch machine (that’s a sewing machine that only does a three thread coverstitch – just look at the hem on your t-Shirt – that’s a three thread coverstitch). Threading the needles is straightforward. Threading the looper (on her machine, that’s to the left side) is not intuitive and involves some very awkward threading from back-to-front on the looper itself.

I pointed out to her that she only ever needed to thread the machine once, then she never have to thread that looper again – just cut the thread at the spool, tie on the new coloured thread, make sure she’s raised the presser foot to release the tension on the tension disks, then pull on the old looper thread bringing the new thread through the entire thread path.

It’s the same with a serger – cut the looper threads (on a serger there are two loopers) near the spool, tie on the new colour thread, raise the presser foot, pull the new thread through the machine. I actually do that with all four threads even though I’ve not figured out how to tied a tiny knot that will go through the needle eye – I just cut the needle threads when the new thread reaches the eye and re-thread the needles with the new colour. I use an overhand knot (which I pull snug) – I’ve tried reef knots but they’re no smaller.

Threading the needle paths on a serger or coverstitch machine from spool to needle is easy; it’s the loopers that can be complicated. Tying the new threads on and pulling them through is an easy fix.

Two New Tops

I made another knit top after finding this striped cotton knit in my stash – the last cotton knit in that drawer. I added a bit of flare because the knit was light with a soft drape. However, the fabric was difficult to work with, I made sure I had stretch needles in my serger, my quilter and the coverstitch machines, but the fabric edges curled forcing me to pin closely at the edges in order to have the seam edge lay flat! I’ve gotten very used to not having to pin – taking time to pin the edges practically doubled my sewing time.

And it’s a very warm day today so I decided to wear the heirloom top. I didn’t realize I’d set it up with a slightly dropped shoulder (that’s because I drafted the pattern from my other lightweight cotton top which has a dropped shoulder) but if I don’t say anything about it, nobody but an experienced sewer would notice it. It will be comfortable on this hot day. (This is the best of several photos I took – I didn’t manage to smile in this one which was the clearest image of the shirt!).