Author Archives: Erin

Throwback Slipcover Project

When my son came to me a year or so ago to ask if I could make some slipcovers for his parsons-style chairs, I said “of course!”    Then I had to figure out how to actually make slipcovers for his chairs.   I looked at a few tutorials and talked with my slipcovering genius friend at Piping and Pleats, and told him we were good to go.  After that, we just needed to wait for the fabric to arrive.  The chairs were originally dark brown pleather which had been victimized tremendously by his two cats (sorry, no before picture) and were in desperate need of slipcovers.  (Actually, the chair behind the chair has the same kind of pleather, if you’re trying to visualize the before!)

The fabric he ordered was a home dec weight fabric from fabric.com which was quite easy to work with.  He decided against ties on the legs and I’m still thinking we should have added flaps with Velcro to secure them to the seat, but I do like the clean look of the hem as is.

It is amazing how much we learn by doing new things.  I’m not pleased with the area where the seat meets the back on these and while the tuck is good, the transition needs improvement.  Still, the back fits nicely and the seat fits nicely, so those are wins.  All in all, they were a success.  Sewing is one of those skills where we have to learn by doing and accepting the growth which comes from the imperfect is part of that skill building journey.  So, while they’re not perfect, I think they turned out pretty well and my son is really quite pleased.

A Rush Job!

What do you do when a friend calls in a panic at 8:00 o’clock at night and asks you if there is any way you could make a poodle skirt for her daughter by 2:30 the next afternoon?  You tell her to meet you at JoAnn they close to pick out the fabric!!   The hardest part of the project was helping an 8-year old girl decide on a fabric choice.  While I was originally going to applique the poodle myself, the project got even easier when we found a premade poodle patch by Singer.  A little bit of wide black elastic and we were good to go!

After that, I quickly googled “circle skirt tutorial” and found a fabulous video tutorial by Made Everyday.   (Did I mention I’d never made a circle skirt before?)  It really was quite simple…as everyone knows, hemming a circle skirt seems to be the hardest part.  Once the skirt was finished, I used some of the leftover fabric for a “ribbon” for the girl’s ponytail and the project was done.  Pretty cute, isn’t it??  Best of all was getting a picture of the skirt on the smiling girl at the event.  This was one fun rush job.

(I know some people really don’t like their friends asking them to sew things for them, but I’m not one of them.  I am always so flattered that people will come to me to help them out…I never ever feel taken advantage of.  After all, if I don’t have time or don’t think I can handle the project, I decline.)

 

Take Off Tote for a Friend

A birthday gift I was proud to give. Even better, I love seeing it used on a regular basis…truly the sincerest compliment I could receive.

A friend’s birthday was a wonderful reason to make this Take Off Tote from Dog Under My Desk.  For this version of the bag, I enlarged the pattern by 120% to make it the perfect size for a gym bag large enough to hold even winter clothes. This is one of my favorite patterns by one of my favorite pattern designers…the instructions are so simple to follow and the resulting bag is always something I’m proud to give to someone.

Not your typical gym bag, is it? I just love the fabric my friend picked out…so elegant.

At about 20″ long, this is a terrific gym bag.  Both the exterior and interior of the bag are made with quilter’s cotton, reinforced with Pellon SF101.  I used Pellon fusible Flex Foam to give the bag stability, which is why it is standing so nicely for the photo shoot.   Instead of using interfaced fabric for the straps, I used 1″ propylene webbing.  It holds up really well and doesn’t show dirt.  I added some feet at the bottom of the bag (sorry, no picture!) to keep it from getting too grimy at the gym. The only other “modification” I made to the original pattern was the addition of piping at the top of the both the exterior and interior pockets.

I love the circle monogram on this gorgeous fabric…the font is bold enough to hold its own against the paisley.

The simplicity of the polka dot interior is just right with the paisley print of the exterior.  It doesn’t really show well in the photo, but I topped the interior pocket with piping, as well.

Here is the view from the back side of the bag.  I sewed the optional trolley sleeve closed to provide a second exterior pocket.  With some leftover lining fabric, I added a coordinating shoe bag to keep everything nice and clean while tucked up in the bag.

Finally, I had just enough extra fabric leftover to sew a toiletries bag/wristlet.  I used Dog Under My Desk’s Essential Wristlet –this is the large boxed-bottom version of the pattern–and think it is just “sew” cute. 

Took the opportunity to play around with a new embroidery font to personalize the bag and used a rivet for the first time to secure the removable strap to the lobster clasp.  (I added a reinforcing stitch right by the rivet, just in case…)

These bags are really quite versatile and wear well.  The patterns I use from Dog Under My Desk definitely fall under the Tried And True category and they are go-to patterns in my stash.

 

 

One down, 11 to go!

 

One of the goals I set for myself in 2017 was to improve my sewing of clothing by committing to make twelve articles of clothing that I would actually want to wear.  I am pretty confident in my non-clothing sewing…it’s clothing which gives me high anxiety these days.  We all know the problems with sewing clothing:  you finish a project that you’d begun with high hopes, only to be left with an article of clothing that misses the boat and either hangs in your closet forever untouched or just moves straight on in the donate pile, a discouraging occurrence which then messes with your sewing motivation.  This year, I decided that I would muscle through until I ended up with twelve truly wearable articles of clothing no matter what.

I am proud to present to you item Number One!  I finished this coat in February, but I’m just now getting around to sharing it.

This “greige” poly cotton blend hangs well and doesn’t wrinkle too badly. It should wear well and was a forgiving choice for this first time project.

This coat is a modified version of Simplicity 2153 Misses Anorak.  I combined views C and D, eliminating the sleeve loops, epaulets, moved the drawstring to the inside and substituted buttons for the zipper, as well as leaving off the breast pockets.

Finished all the seams with my serger, moved the casing to the inside and used cord keepers to give a more finished look to the drawstring.

I also sewed down the facing for a cleaner look.  Finally, because I’m 5’10”, I added 2″ to the length of the coat and lowered the drawstring casing by 1″.

Used matching thread to sew down the interfacing, rather than having it flapping around or curling after awhile…I like the clean finish.

 

If I were to make this again, I would add another 2″ to the length (for a total of 4″), add a top flap to the lower pockets…and I might try it with the zipper without a drawstring at all.  I will definitely be making another version of this coat and this first time definitely counts as something wearable…I’ve already worn it a number of times.  There you have it…Number 1 of 12!

Bag Making–Outta Time Tote by DUMD

One of my favorite pattern writers is Erin Gilbey at Dog Under My Desk patterns.  Not only does she have an awesome first name, but she writes the most amazing, easy-to-follow patterns around.  I discovered her patterns a few years ago and she is definitely one of the reasons I kept at this whole “teaching myself to sew” gig.

This one was for my bird-watching former-English teacher aunt…I think the fabric was perfect!

 

Recently, I made two of her Outta Time Totes as gifts for relatives.  They are a nice size…great for a trip to the store or the library.  And as always, they stitched up beautifully and gave me a result I was proud to give as gifts.

I’m not a photographer. The lining coordinates beautifully with the branches on the exterior fabric. The zipper on the interior pocket matches the zipper on the exterior…the grey straps pick up the grey in the blue feathered bird.

 

Erin’s patterns are so well-designed and her instructions are so well-written and so precise, from the first project attempted, even the novice sewist gets a project worth having.

I love this floral…it gives off a cool hippie vibe…just perfect for the recipient…a very cool woman, indeed.

 

Both of these bags are made of quilter’s cotton, stabilized with Pellon SF101 and Pellon Fusible Flex Foam.  I used 1″ webbing for the handles because I find it doesn’t get grungy as quickly.  I’m slow on the sewing machine, so each bag took me about two and a half hours to sew.  I really need to learn to put weights in the bags when I photograph them to show that the linings do fit…when you’ve first turned them right side out, they just don’t want to lay nicely in the bag!  Still, this photo show the web straps better and you can see the detailed stitching on the inside.   These patterns are meticulous…the resulting bags have no exposed unfinished seams…so clean inside and out.  I really love them!

Post Christmas Update in March!

Well, here it is March 1 and I’m finally sharing the other Christmas sewing I did.  This will be short and sweet…just wanting to get it out there.  To that point,, “sewing” isn’t exactly accurate.  “Embroidery” is more to the point.  This fall, after owning my amazing sewing machine for three years, I finally tackled the embroidery functions of this machine and I am so excited by what I can do with it.  After a steep learning curve, steep as in two months and a lot of discarded projects, I finally got the hang of it and set out to embroider (a lot of) napkins for friends and family for Christmas.  I had such good results that I ended up embroidering 60 napkins.  Before you ask, all my napkin blanks came from World Market…they had terrific sales and coupons and helped the project come in at a reasonable cost.

Lessons learned with this project:  Where you get your files matters…not all digitizers are equal.  Poorly laid out jump threads make for a painful project.  Poorly digitized projects cannot be resized well at all.  Appropriate stabilizer is key…once I found the perfect combination of stabilizers, my results were terrific.  Finally, my machine prefers pre-wound bobbins.  I had no problems until I ran out of the pre-wound embroidery thread bobbins and tried to use bobbins I wound myself.  I have no idea why this is and after two screwed up beyond redemption projects, I gave up and ordered more pre-wound bobbins.

So, on that note, here they are, with information on the source of the embroidery image.  I used Sew What Pro software to manipulate the images for the size and colors I needed.  Each one of these was done on a Brother SE400 in the 4×4 hoop with two layers of Sulky tear away hooped and the napkin floated using Sulky spray adhesive and then another layer of tear away pinned on the top.

First Up, the “C” napkins.  This is the Fancy Block Monogram by Designs by JuJu, without the blocks intended to surround the letter and the flourish.  These stitched up like a dream.  Really quite pleased with the pop of coral and the tone on tone flourish.

The Sants napkins are also done with an alphabet from Designs by JuJu.  This one is the Split Flourish Monogram combined with the basic San Serif.  The red really looks festive against the gold on these white napkins.  I was so pleased with them.

This next set was for friends who are hunters and fishers…I thought a woodland Christmas theme was fitting for their camo-themed life.  The images are from Breezy Lane Embroidery…her library of designs is extensive and fun.  There was something for everyone on my list!

Not too fussy, but still fun for a family with grandsons who visit at Christmas!  These dense images took about an hour each to embroider…definitely a labor of love.

Another from Breezy Lane, these penguins for perfect for a family with penguin-themed Christmas decorations.Pretty adorable and fit right in with all the other penguins in their winter wonderland.

I loved these modern Christmas trees from Breezy Lane…festive without being fussy.I made two sets of these, each going to friends who weren’t decorating too much…just brought in a little holiday cheer.

My son’s girlfriend collects nutcrackers and Breezy Lane came to my rescue again with this handsome fellow.

She loved them and my son wasn’t opposed to them, so its all good!

Finally, I made two sets of these laurel wreath monograms from Love Some Designs.  These were the first alphabet I purchased.

I got the files via Etsy and, while I loved the result, the jump threads on the laurel wreath were crazy and I think I’ll probably source a different design file if I decide to do more of this style.

So, there you have it…a quite belated Christmas wrap up!  I learned so much by doing these and I’m so glad I set the bar high for myself this Christmas.  The pressure to get everything done on time really made me dig in and learn my stuff.  Talk with you again soon!

 

First Applique Project

I’ve never done applique…I’ve never worn applique.  When it comes to clothing, I’m pretty minimalist.  Black, grey, white, and tan…oh, and army green!  Yeah, I’m a colorful kind of lady-not.  I’m not a fussy decorator, either.  I just like simple things…no ruffles, no florals, nothing too busy.  Couple that with the fact that all my children are pretty much grown ups and you can quickly to see why I’ve never gotten into embroidered t-shirts and/or applique.  My sewing machine is a combination sewing/embroidery machine, but other than adding names to things using the pre-loaded fonts, I’ve left the embroidery side alone.  Untouched.  Unexplored.  Uncharted territory.

Still, I won’t lie,  I’ve been intrigued.  How were people making these amazingly cute little onesies or t-shirts for babies and toddlers?   Finally, I decided I had to know.  I joined a FB group specifically geared towards owners of my sewing machine and the members were a wealth of information and encouragement.  It wasn’t long before I leapt head first into embroidery and applique.  I did this little spider first and was hooked.

This little spider made applique make sense…

So, I texted a friend of mine and asked her what size her boys were wearing and devised a plan.  Her boys were perfect for my applique adventure…think about it:  toddler boys aren’t going to be harsh critics and moms of toddler boys are always willing to get a new t-shirt.  I ordered the blanks (blank items on which to embroider or applique) and set about learning what I needed to know so I’d be ready when the blanks arrived.  I honestly had no idea how to applique…minor road block, right?  Nabbing a few recommendations, I headed over to The Itch 2 Stitch , browsed through their amazing selection of applique files and watched their video tutorial.  I bought a few applique files, and got to work with my scrap fabric. After struggling to narrow down my applique choices to these two, the actual applique process was surprisingly easy.

I tried both images first on just some scrap fabric to learn how the applique would really work. Then I tried them on a scrap of t-shirt material to mimic the shirts I’d be using for the end result (I didn’t remove all the WSS from the t-shirt sample…the final applique wasn’t shiny.)

A few practice runs under my belt and I was ready to go.  These two little shirts were the end result.   Not bad for a newbie!

They’re not perfect, but they’re really quite okay for a first time. Definitely inspired me to keep playing with my embroidery machine!

While I haven’t done more applique following my success with these two shirts, they inspired me to jump into embroidery in a big way…to the point that I was still doing embroidery at 8:00 p.m. December 24!  To say I was hooked would be an understatement, but more on that another time.  In the meantime, I’ve got two February themed applique projects in the pipeline…I look forward to sharing them with you.

 

Post Christmas Sewing Update – Part 1

All the gifts have been given and opened, so now I can share my Christmas sewing projects with you.  I ended up making 38 Christmas pillow cases for friends and family.  It was such a fun project and I was so pleased with how they all turned out.  This pillow case pattern is such a quick sew and one of the things I like most about the finished product is that there are no unfinished seams exposed anywhere.  It is just such an elegant finished project.  Let me show you!

A stack of pillowcases pinned using the “burrito method” and ready to be sewn!

This isn’t all of them, but this picture made me smile.  Just look how festive my cutting table looks!

 

Some of the finished pillow cases…aren’t they colorful??

Can you tell I’m not a photographer?  Still, you can see how the simple holly berries and pine boughs were a more adult Christmas theme when compared to the brightly colored modern print below.  These were my two favorites, when it was all said and done.

 

Two of my favorite fabric combinations! Aren’t they cheerful?

Traditional candy canes and then some festive Christmas reindeer…what’s not to love?

 

Two more sets…I just loved so much of the Christmas fabric in the stores…it was hard to choose.

Finally, a different version of the reindeer print, some adorable puppies, and an awesome Cotton and Steel interpretation of Christmas.  Very modern and non-traditional…my sister picked that fabric out herself and had it shipped straight to me!

 

Oh, this detail shot has the fabric my sister picked out for herself – the Cotton and Steel snow globes! Above that is the fabric I picked for my SIL who is very involved with a rescue organization…I thought it was perfect!

All in all, this was a fun and rewarding project.  It was fantastic to actually give worthwhile handmade gifts to my family and friends…oh, and did I mention that I got them done early enough for people to enjoy them BEFORE Christmas…just added to the festivity in their homes without adding to the clutter that sometimes/always comes with the holidays!

Why sewing?

When I was a little girl, my mom made me beautiful things…princess-y things.  I don’t mean frilly, ruffly things, I mean things that made me feel like a princess.  She made me a little cheerleader costume to match the cheerleaders at the high school where my father taught.  She made me a velvet flower girl dress which then made its way into a few Halloween costumes.

cape-whole

A cape fit for a princess…

She made me this lovely lined cape which I have carried with me my entire life, despite the fact that it is moth-eaten and not a little worse for wear.  It is a beautiful navy blue cape, fully lined with a silky fabric, with little hand-made loops for the buttons instead of button holes.

Epaulets, a cute little stand-up collar and loop and brass button closure…

It is definitely princess-y.  I remember slipping my hands through the vents and having a little muff I used with it. It is this cape, made 50 years ago, which inspires me to sew. Every time I look at it, I marvel at the skill and patience it took to make such a lovely cape for a little girl who would never be able to appreciate the time and effort it took to create it.

handvent

My little girl hands would slip out of this vent and its twin on the other side and slip into a little muff…princess-y indeed!

Because of this little cape,  I’ve also carted around with me my mom’s old Singer sewing machine…waiting, nurturing the dream.  I never forgot that I wanted to sew.  I never forgot that I wanted to give things to people that would tell them they were worth my time and effort; I  wanted to give things to people made especially for them.  Well-made things, worthwhile things, personal things.  I’ve also wanted to make for myself clothing that fits beautifully…designed and crafted for my body…to make me feel princess-y.   To me, sewing can do all those things and I’ve itched to do it.  As I raised my children and got busy with life, the dream sat deep in my heart…waiting.

singer 301a1

My mom’s old sewing machine has hit the modern era and has an LED sewing light to replace the original bulb…pretty cool, right?

When the kids got older and life settled down, the dream got pushier.  The sewing machine came out of storage and this part of my journey began.  Full of missteps and frustration, blessed with awesome ladies at the fabric store who would answer the most basic of questions, and armed with Craftsy classes and YouTube videos and amazing indie pattern designers, I started sewing and I kept sewing…and sewing..and sewing.  My family received a lot of flannel pajama pants while I learned to read and understand patterns.  As I branched out, I was still so slow that what someone might see as a wonky fleece pullover probably took me five hours to make.

Slowly, but surely, though, my skills improved and my efficiency increased, to the point that I was willing to go public with my hobby.   More time passed, and now I get paid to sew for people.

I still have so far to go, but I look at that little cape hanging in my closet and I know it is worth it…so I keep sewing…and sewing.

Hello world!

This site is under construction. Please be patient while I attempt to learn how to navigate my way through the world of WordPress. While you’re waiting, if you want to see some of what I’ve been up to , head over to www.nagle5.blogspot.com. I’m there, too.

Thanks so much,

Erin