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Saturday, 17 April 2021

Three Tips Every Sewer Should Know

3 Tips Every Sewer Should Know
Three tips you should know about and use...
Even those of us with years of sewing experience sometimes don't learn about certain basic techniques until we randomly encounter them in a discussion.

Or see them routinely performed by YouTubers.

These are tips that save time and headaches, but since they're not essential processes, some of us may have been blithely unaware.

I have three such tips/techniques to share today, and none of them were known to me until a few years ago. (One of them wasn't known to me until earlier this year.)

Perhaps you know one or all of these, in which case I bow to your extensive knowledge. For everyone else, may these tips lead to faster, easier and better sewing in your future.

Tip #1 for Marking Midpoints

Amost every sewing project that we take on requires us to find the midpoint along a piece of fabric at various times.

The way that most of us do this is to measure and mark with a pen.

Tip for Marking Midpoints
One way to mark a centre point...

Even without knowing an alternative, I was never a fan of this method because there are times when the mark isn't on the "right" side of the fabric to be of any help, and there are times when it's almost impossible to make a mark because of the fabric or the colour.

Tip for Marking Midpoints
Better way to mark a centre point...

When I started watching YouTube sewing videos a few years ago, I saw this "snipping" trick being used and it's been my go to method ever since. Just fold the material in half and make a tiny narrow cut into the seam allowance.

You don't need a marking pen, it's visible no matter what type of fabric you're working with, and it's virtually foolproof.

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Tip #2 for a Neat Top Thread Finish

One of the first things that I learned to do on a sewing machine was to back tack at the completion of a line of sewing to anchor the stitches. Then I'd snip the top thread close to the surface and yank on the back thread to pull the upper thread to the other side.

Tip for a Neat Top Thread Finish
Pull on back thread to loosen the last "loop"...

So it's not like I didn't know how this process worked. But there are times when you may not want your stitching to have the "back tacked" look to it at all. (Consider when you sew around a zipper box.)

Tip for a Neat Top Thread Finish
Pull on the loop until thread comes free...

In that case, you'll want to pull the top thread through to the back without doing the backstitching and instead tie off the ends neatly.

Tip for a Neat Top Thread Finish
Knot the ends for a tidy looking top side...

This is how you do it. Tug on the back thread until you loosen the last loop. Pull up on the loop to bring the top thread to the back. Tie a knot.

It's that simple.

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Tip #3 for Making Gathers and Ruffles

I don't think I've had a need to make ruffles or gathers since I made my fabulous fabric flowers years ago, but if I ever do come across that requirement in future, this will be my new method. (I learned this trick from a fellow blogger only a couple of months ago.)

If you're like me, you were taught to make gathers by stitching a long basting stitch and then pulling on the threads. Now, whether the stitching is done by hand or by machine, the thread is the unpredictable element in that method.

Do you find yourself holding your breath as you tug on the ends of the thread, hoping they don't snap??

Tip for Making Gather and Ruffles
Foolproof way to make easy gathers...

Well, say goodbye to the endless stream of cursing that results when the threads do snap. As long as your sewing machine is capable of a zigzag stitch, you're good to go with this much better method.

I've seen it done with yarn but not being a knitter, I had no yarn in my possession to give it a try. So I went into my little bag of "gimp" and found this narrow satin ribbon to use instead.

As with the other tips, this is easy. Do a wide and long zigzag stitch over whatever cordage you find and then you can gather with no fear of thread breakage. (Oh, and tip #3A is to use dental floss if you're hand basting gathers; it'll hold up stronger than thread.)

Did you gain some knowledge today? If so, spread it around.

'Til next...

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Quasi-Tutorial: Personal Project Portfolio

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Make a versatile Personal Project Portfolio...
As promised, this week I am walking through the steps required to make my personal project portfolio.

Warning: extremely long post... ;-)

In case you missed the beginning of this discussion, this first post revealed the tutorials which inspired this project and this post showcased the finished item (and described the supplies required to make).

Note that while I provide dimensions here, this project easily accommodates whatever size you want. (I always hope that readers are brave enough to customize these tutorials to their own needs.)

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Easy to customize...

My initial estimates had determined that a finished (closed) size of 11" wide x 13.5" high would meet my needs to store file folders and such. It was then be a matter of adding depth depending on what solution I found for the file pockets.

Once I purchased the mesh zippered folders from Dollarama, I filled them with stuff, stacked them, measured them and ultimately decided a 2" thickness would suffice.

Project Variation Alert! If you're using this portfolio for purposes that require smaller spaces for your doodads, you could sew a horizontal line across the middle of these zippered folders — stopping before you reach the zipper of course — to end up with a two-pocket style container.

What that translates into is that I needed to start with two pieces of fabric measuring 24" wide x 13.5" high.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Joining three pieces of fabric to arrive at one "side"...

My main fabric selection (Jumbo Bouncing Ox) wasn't wide enough to yield two pieces at 24" each; therefore, I had to join three pieces together to get the required width. The two large pieces were about 10.25" x 13.5" each and the middle strip was 4.5" x 13.5".

All three were then sewn together with a 1/4" seam allowance and interfaced with fusible fleece.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Interfaced with fusible fleece...

I chose to quilt the main areas (the yellow fabric) of both panels, but that's certainly not a requirement. I did the interior with a meandering squiggle and the exterior with straight vertical lines.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Quilting done...

Rounding off the corners was the next task. For those of you who automatically reach for a plate or a bowl or even a CD for this purpose, note that you may not always want that much taken off. Better to choose a glass.

Or... this piece of gold toned cardboard came out of a box of Christmas chocolates. I measured and cut curves corresponding to 2cm and 3cm at two of the corners. (If you're wondering why I stepped into the metric world for this, those two measurements represent serviceable curves on either side of 1".)

DIY curved corners tool
My DIY curve tool...

In this case, I used the 3cm edge to round off the corners of the quilted panels.

Next, I measured for and prepped the front and back interior vinyl pockets. (As I mentioned before, the vinyl itself was reclaimed from a bedding bag, and both pieces actually had pockets on them.) With what I had, a depth of 8" was possible; i.e., each piece of vinyl was 8" x 13.5".

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Measuring for and marking placement of vinyl pockets...

Some of my bias binding was used to finish off the open edge of each vinyl pocket. (To make your own continuous bias binding, follow this tutorial and you'll get more than enough for this project if you start out with a fat quarter.)

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Can you see the square pocket in the middle of the vinyl?

I did some re-checking for size as I marked the position of the vinyl pockets. Plenty of room for just pieces of paper, but you can see that something longer like a file folder would also fit.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Always a good idea to confirm fit along the way...

I also rounded off the corners of the vinyl at this point and sewed the binding along the front edge.

Then I basted the two fabric panels together (back to back, front sides out), leaving the middle top and bottom 3" or so open (i.e., where most of the gray fabric is).

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Binding the zippered folders "book style" required punching holes in the "spine" of the portfolio. The first step is therefore to determine and mark the locations of these holes to install eyelets.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Finding the right location for the book binding technique...

Nothing difficult here. I drew a line down the middle and then drew two more lines to the left and right, a 1/2" away. The two outermost lines — as indicated by the orange pins above — will serve as sewing lines to demarcate the spine of the portfolio; the other three lines will be used to space out the eyelets for each of the three folders.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Adding a strip of Peltex...

I decided on the fly to add some more heft to the spine by sliding a piece of Peltex — just under 2" wide by 12.5" long — between the two sewn lines. (I literally did it this way, which ended up being extremely tricky and difficult to insert. I would suggest sewing one of the lines, inserting the strip of Peltex and then sewing the other line against it.)

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Eyelets installed...

In terms of spacing out the eyelets, I figured that each folder needed to be secured with two sets of binding, each consisting of two eyelets spaced 3" apart. To ensure that they wouldn't be too close together (horizontally speaking), I staggered the placement of the middle sets.

[Don't overthink this part because it really doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you do it evenly. In my case, the first eyelet on the middle line was located 1.5" from the top edge. The first eyelet on each of the lines to the left and right was located 2" down from the top edge. Then I spun the whole thing around and measured the same way again from the bottom.]

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Large eyelets for loop closure installed...

The two eyelets for the closure should also be added at this point. Find the middle along the left side and mark two locations 2" apart, about 3/4" from the edge.

Remember that eyelets have a right and wrong side in terms of appearance. You'll obviously want the nicer looking half on the outside of your project.

The actual process of "book binding" the folders to the fabric panel will be done last, after attaching the bias binding around the perimeter of the portfolio and securing the vinyl pockets along the way.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Attach binding against interior...

My bias binding was double folded and 2" wide when opened up; it's a standard 1/2" size that works well for this project. In terms of attaching it, however, there are several ways that it can be done, so do whatever works for you.

The method I used here starts with clipping the open binding all the way around, right side down against the interior. Then I sew along the first fold line, which is about 1/2" away from the edge.

Leave a couple of inches of binding loose at the beginning when you start to sew, because you want to be able to pick up and join the two ends when you're done.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
One way of joining ends of bias binding...

Since it's cut on the bias, the binding will invariably stretch. Which means that even though it may have been neatly pinned or clipped at the start, you'll have to reposition it as you sew.

How do you join the ends? Again, there are various ways.

When I got to within the last few inches, I cut the ends on the diagonal, making sure to leave enough fabric to overlap. Then I folded back a small seam on the layer of binding that will wind up on top (in the above picture, it's the part that's hidden on the bottom), overlapped it with the other end of the binding and then continued to sew right back to the starting point.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Turn and clip bias binding...

So in essence, the actual ends of my bias binding are not seamed together. But once you flip the binding over to the other side and clip it into place, the appearance is a tidy join.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Finish sewing the binding from the exterior side...

Finish sewing by stitching close to the edge of the binding from the exterior side. (With the vinyl now against the sewing machine, it may stick; keep a steady pace and help it along if necessary, or put down some fabric or tissue paper.)

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Edges bound!

Now it's time to break out the cord and book bind the folders.

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Binding the folders to the spine of the portfolio involves three steps: 1) cutting small openings in the bottom of the folder at appropriate spots, 2) threading cord through the openings and the eyelets, and 3) tying off securely.

Place the bottom edge of a folder against one of the rows of eyelets. Make sure it's centered left and right (top and bottom of the portfolio).

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Align folder against the eyelets...

Preferably using a set of detailing scissors, make a tiny snip at each eyelet location. Don't cut too much! If the hole is not large enough for the cord to pass through, you can always make it bigger, but if you overdo it, you won't be able to make it smaller.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Snip a tiny hole in the bottom of the folder at the required locations...

Thread the cord through each set of eyelets so that the ends are inside the folder. I found that I needed to "freshen" the end of the cord by snipping it each time as it tended to fray once pushed through the hole, but YMMV depending on what type of cord you use.

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Tie a tight knot inside the folder...

Tie off the ends tightly inside the folder and you can now say you've done some book binding! (Of course, the true advantage of this method is that you can easily redo or change it up.)

Personal Project Portfolio by eSheep Designs
Completing the project...

Finish by threading the closure eyelets with an appropriate length of cord or ribbon and sewing a button on the front.

So, was it simple? Easier than you expected? Are you going to make one?

'Til next...

Saturday, 3 April 2021

The Power of Repurposing

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
Neck warmer transformed...
Let's admit it, when things are new and shiny, we love them, we pay attention to them and we prefer them to all others.

It often doesn't take long for the newness and shine to wear off and before long, this "thing" loses our notice and gets shoved to the back of the closet, shelf, what have you.

If you're a maker like me, this tendency may be even more evident (and problematic), as we flit from one creation to the next.

Even though I've only been at this for a little over eight years, the reality that I can only use so much of what I make has always been top of mind.

For example, I have assorted bags and purses hanging off hooks in my sewing room. I have used every bag I've ever made, but — quite honestly — some of them will never be used again. And I will not fool myself into thinking that there exists any feasible market in which I'll find a buyer for them. For one thing, they were made with the intention of being "testers" and not as "product to be sold". (I give myself credit for knowing the difference.)

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
Eyelets/grommets added to one edge of the original neck warmer...

This thing that you see here was a neck warmer that I made about four years ago out of a couple of my Canadiana fabrics in fleece.

I never wore it much because of the loose fit. While it generally added warmth, it was bulky and sort of unwieldy in how it sat around my neck without being able to be gathered up. Whenever I did wear it, I kept wanting to fold and tuck it in.

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
... and also the other edge...

My other half pretty much felt the same way early on, asking that his be turned into a headband, which I did four year ago using this method. The remnants were then turned into the second neck cowl featured in this post. (Apparently I've been doing this repurposing thing for awhile!)

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When I took out our winter accessories at the start of the season last November, I set this aside to see if I could brainstorm a way to change it up and make it more user-friendly for me.

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
A channel created along both edges...

The idea of a snood came to mind not long afterwards, like this one in my Contrado shop. All I'd need to do is sew a channel along the edge to accommodate a drawstring.

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
Threading paracord through the channel with the help of a bodkin...

This neck warmer, however, was originally reversible. Thus I had the happy idea to sew a channel along the other edge also to enable the drawstring to be threaded through to show the other side.

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
Pulled through successfully!

There are only two logistical things to consider in making this conversion. Number one is to install the grommets on alternating sides of each edge. Number two is to ensure that the print on the fabric will show right side up when all is said and done.

In very much the same way as we know to "measure twice and cut once", I thought I had figured out what side was "up" when I determined how the grommets should be installed (because there is a top and bottom side to a grommet).

However, by the time I had sewn down the channels along both edges, it became apparent that my maple leaf print was upside down.

Repurposed Snood by eSheep Designs
Cordlock (which was rescued from a discarded jacket) completes the project...

Not a huge deal, since the leaves aren't green, which implies that they're dead... and falling... and therefore they are actually positioned correctly, according to the laws of gravity! At least, that's my explanation and I'm sticking to it.

The photo at the top of this post shows the snood with the white side out. With the help of my trusty bodkin, re-threading the paracord is a fairly smooth process. (I burnt the ends of the paracord and then wrapped black electrical tape around them to facilitate ease of use. Longer sports shoelaces would be an excellent option in the absence of paracord.) Of course, if this wasn't a repurposing project, I would have sewn the channel using only one layer of the fleece instead of two.

As a measure of success, however, this has gotten a lot more wear than it did in its earlier form, so it's a thumbs up from me.

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Now it's time to explore what you might call a true repurposing; as in, making use of something in a way different from what was originally intended.

Check these out. They're two mini skirts.

Mini Skirts Turned Snoods
What can you do with old mini skirts?

Now, before you think that I have the wardrobe of a sixteen year old — or that I've kept clothes from when I was sixteen — my original use for these stretchy short skirts was to add a layer on top of leggings, underneath a top that wasn't long enough to cover my butt. 

Mini skirt turned snood idea by eSheep Designs
Mini skirt as repurposed snood #1...

But if you take the same short skirt and pull it over your head, it becomes a "no sewing required" repurposed snood all on its own!

Something like this easily adds another layer of warmth to your head when it's cold out.

Mini skirt turned snood idea by eSheep Designs
Mini skirt as repurposed snood #2...

As you might guess, you wear this with the narrowest part (the waist band of the skirt) at the top. You can go with this "Kenny from South Park" look or just use it like you would an infinity scarf.

Mini skirt turned snood idea by eSheep Designs
It provides coverage all the way down the back...

These are about 16" (40.5cm) long, so you can see how they extend down the back quite a ways. I might yet get ambitious and sew them together so that it becomes a single, reversible snood providing even more warmth. 

It almost makes me look forward to next winter! (Almost.)

What do you think?

'Til next...