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!).

Socks and Heirloom Top

I also finished the latest pair of socks (added to the give-away stash) and the pull-on shirt I made using the heirloom panel I created a couple of weeks ago. I’ve since added five small mother of pearl buttons to the centre of the heirloom embroidery to draw attention to the stitching. It’s a light, loose hot summer day shirt. The only problem – the fabric I used for the heirloom panel is a slightly yellower colour than the rest of the shirt. Nobody will notice it. And I’m hoping a washing or two with oxyclean will whiten so the panel will blend with the rest of the shirt!

Patience & Perseverance

My patience and perseverance were tested yesterday. The other day, I pulled out some Marcy Tilton t-Shirt fabric I’d bought last year – time to use it to make up a couple of shirts. I went through my collection of t-Shirt patterns and decided to try out the Connie Crawford’s “Perfect Knit Sloper” that I’d picked up a couple of months ago. When the sloper arrived, I opened it, and drafted a sloper on Swedish cloth, using my measurements. This is the first time I’m trying out this sloper so I know I’m making a muslin.

I cut out a t-Shirt – using Janet Pray’s technique for turning a t-Shirt into a “swing” shirt (a shirt that is flared at the bottom)(15:25 – 21:55 on the video). Cut a couple of pieces of grosgrain ribbon a bit longer than the shoulder seam (to stabilize the shoulder), then serged the shoulder seams. So far so good. Next comes the neckband. I cut out the neckband the size suggested in the sloper pattern and serged it to the neckline. First problem – I had a couple of spots where I didn’t have the neckline and band aligned perfectly – I opened those spots and restitched them.

Tried on the garment to see how the neckline looked – dreadful – the band stuck out in the front – the band was too long. I thought the neckline was a bit higher than I liked, so I carefully removed the neckband (being extremely careful not to cut or pick the fabric), recut the neckline 1 1/2″ lower in the front, then reattached the neckband. The band was still too long, so I carefully removed it (being extremely careful not to cut or pick the fabric), shortened it by 2″, distributed the fullness of the garment neckline (stretching the band as I attached it to make it fit), basted the two together this time, then once I was sure I had the band and neckline aligned, I serged the seam! Finally the band laid flat and the fabric edges matched. I pressed the band seam toward the garment and top stitched it (to hold the seam allowance flat on the t-Shirt) 1/8mm from the seam using a narrow-edge foot.

Now to attach the sleeves. I carefully aligned the right sleeve with the sleeve opening on the t-Shirt, sewed it in place – didn’t like the sleeve header – the top of the sleeve stood up rather than lay flat. I unpicked the serged seam, flattened the top curve of the sleeve an inch, reattached it (this time basting it first) then serging the seam. I recut the second sleeve and serged it.

I serged the side seams; they were fine, until I tried on the shirt – too much flare! So I removed a wedge from bottom portion of the side seams.

Last, I used my coverstitch machine to do the bottom and sleeve hems (stitching a wee bit narrower than the fold and trimming back to the seam using my handy duckbill scissors.

Wearing the Finished t-Shirt

“Why?” you might ask do I bother making t-Shirts – because I can’t buy t-Shirts with sleeves long enough to cover my old lady arms.

This t-Shirt turned into a L-O-N-G project. I was determined not to give up and throw the whole thing in the garbage! But constructing it – a muslin, I kept reminding myself – definitely pushed my patience and perseverance to the limit! I wore it today and got complements on it.

Sewing the second t-Shirt was simple and straightforward – I made the adjustments to the sloper pattern, cut it out, basted, then serged the seams. The neck band lays flat, the sleeves headers are smooth, it’s not too full at the bottom.

The Wedding Gown

I said to myself, before I started these alterations, if I ruin the dress, I’ll replace it! That gave me the courage to proceed.

I started with the front opening. Michelle is tall, very thin, with a small bosom. So when she moved, the front gaped and she felt exposed. I wanted to stitch the opening closed but she was adamant the opening remain.

I shopped for a bit of nude mesh which I found at Fabricville. I cut a triangle long enough to support the gap further toward the neckline, pinned it in place then hand stitched it (very small stitches with Aurifil 50wt thread in white). Can’t see my stitches. I stitched the edges of the triangle on the inside as well. Then I added a sheer white polyester bias tape across the top edge to prevent the mesh from stretching much. That should do the job.

Second, I took up the shoulder straps an inch. I though I’d have to carefully remove beads and pearls, but I got away without having to do that – I was able to fold the strap 1/2″ and stitched the fold securely to itself. You have to look very closely to see where that join is. That adjustment should help with how the neckline fits as well.

Finally the two nude inner skirts. First, I had to figure out the length of the innermost skirt at the front, mark that length around the whole thing then cut it being VERY careful not to cut the lace and tulle layers. Next, measure the second skirt 2″ longer and cut it. I think the two skirts are still bit long in the centre back (that’s because at the waist the inner skirts dip down about an inch and a half below the centre front) but I was afraid to cut the skirts too short – we can always cut more – I can’t add back what I cut off!

I’ve decided not to hem the bottom edge – this dress will be worn once, the fabric doesn’t fray, and no point in doing a turned hem if I have to cut off more.

So far, I don’t think I’ve ruined the dress. I’d say, it’s done until Michelle tries it on. If I’m lucky she’ll be happy with my alterations – my wedding gift to her.

How I Spent My Day

Yesterday, I spent the greater part of the day teaching a class about heirloom sewing; passing on what I’ve learned about creating delicate Victorian detailed embroidery techniques using my sewing/embroidery machine by helping others create a sampler which they can now use as part of a garment (likely a nightgown) or some other decorated textile project.

Heirloom Sample #1

It’s that time of year – I had a class of one. While my student was working, I had a bit of time to work on a sampler of my own – not particularly precise since I was distracted showing her techniques to help her with the precision that makes this work so lovely. I’ve put my sampler aside as an example of what you’re trying to avoid – my rows aren’t straight, the spacing isn’t exact and the panel is too narrow for the garment I want to make.

However, I still intend to make a light weight, flowing summer top embellished with heirloom work. So after aquafit this morning I started another stitched piece to serve as the yoke for this garment.

Finished Heirloom Panel – 24″ x 12″

Today, I decided to use a crisp paper as stabilizer, pulling it away from the stitching as I finished each row. I also took the time to draw lines with a heat-erasable pen to follow as I stitched. Unlike yesterday, my rows are evenly spaced and straight.

I began with 4 rows of tucks in the centre, since the neck opening of the top I plan on making has a slit I want to replicate, I decided not to put a lace piece down the centre. Now that I’ve drafted a pattern for the front yoke from my existing top I have a feeling I may not have left enough space at the centre to make the slit and face it properly (Oh, well). Next some hemstitching, followed by a row of decorative stitching, a grouping of pin tucks, another row of decorative stitching, an entredeux insert, ending with more decorative stitching and an outside line of hemstitching. The panel is symmetrical and the lines do match up on both sides.

Over the next few days, I’ll cut out the garment and begin assembling it. The top on which I’m basing this creation has an embellished front without a seam joining top and bottom. I’ll have to add a strip of entredeux to join top front to top bottom. I’m still thinking about style here and may in the end just use the same pattern I used for the nightgown and simply sew a hip-length top from it. I’ll make that decision tomorrow.

Heirloom Sewing

I’m doing an Heirloom Sewing class on Tuesday. The plan is to create a sampler using a range of heirloom techniques on a piece of lightweight cotton fabric (voile, batiste, lawn) large enough to become a yoke on a pull-on shirt, or a nightgown, a piece that can be used to make some kind of garment.

I needed to make something to show a finished product. A number of years ago I created several heirloom samplers intending to use them to make nightgowns. My supply of these lovely cotton nightgowns has continued to be serviceable for more than 10 years – I haven’t needed to replace any. However, I needed a new garment to show the class so yesterday I chose one of the samplers, pulled some batiste from my fabric stash, and cut out the nightgown. Today, I sewed it together.

First I had to put a bias binding to finish the front neckline. Second, I had to embellish the ends of the sleeves. I have a supply of beautiful lace edgings I bought quite a while ago and decided I should use one. I put it on the sleeve edge, did a row of hem stitching using a wing needle, then three rows of pin tucks using a 1.6mm twin needle and a pin tuck foot, finally a single row of decorative stitching. Together it makes for a pleasing sleeve edge.

I constructed the gown with French seams by sewing wrong sides together first, pressing the seam, folding it along the seam edge and stitching the seam again 1/4″ from the edge encasing the raw edges within the second seam. It’s a strong seam finish and there can be no fraying.

Once I had the gown made up, I double folded the hem and edge stitched it, then I added three rows of tucks along the bottom edge. I might still add a bit of decorative stitching but for now I’ve stopped.

Along with the original panels, I now have a completed nightgown to take to class!