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….

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.

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.

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!).

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!

New Silk Kantha

New Silk Kantha

I ordered another silk kantha bedspread ten days ago – it arrived day before yesterday. It’s a dark, rainy afternoon and the overhead light floods the quilt with yellow light. It’s actually more off-white/light beige with red and purple accents. It has red and white quilt stitching. It’s going to be perfect for a colourful summer jacket – this time with more flow and more contrasting colour to bring out the red in the silk blocks.

I bought a 90″ x 108″ quilt – that’s a ton of fabric – more than enough for two jackets! I’ll do one for myself first, then who knows what I’ll do with what’s left. A friend sent me a Pinterest photo of a summer shirt yesterday – this might work nicely done with some of the kantha.

Summer Shirt Idea From Pinterest

She’s right about that – it wouldn’t take much kantha fabric to do half a front, half a back and one sleeve! I’d use red linen for the other half of the shirt. Simple to make – a facing on the front neckline, a small binding on the back. It’s hard to tell from the photo whether the bottom of the shirt is actually scooped or just tucked into the bottom. I’d make mine straight with side slits.

Clearly an idea on my “to do” list.