Friday, January 12, 2018

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #6 (Stitch Length and Width)

Most sewing machines have a way to adjust stitch width and stitch length.  Some machines will only do a straight stitch, so they only have stitch length.  Adjusting the stitch length determines how far apart your stitches are.  The largest distance between stitches would be for a basting stitch, so it is easily removed.  A small stitch length would be when the stitches are so close together that they are difficult to remove, which is a good thing at the end of a dart, around a sharp angle or at the beginning and end of seams so they don't come apart.  Quilters also use a small stitch length because their seam allowances are only 1/4", and this helps to hold them, even on small pieces of fabric.

The average stitch length is about 2.5, which comes out to be 10-12 stitches per inch.  For a basting stitch you may use 4, for quilting maybe 1.8.  If your machine has different numbers for you to choose from it may be an older machine, so refer to your manual or experiment with your machine to see what stitch length  you wan to use.

When your machine has a zig-zag stitch or decorative stitches you can adjust how wide those stitches are.  Also, on some machines, you can move the needle position by adjusting the stitch width and keeping it set to a straight stitch.  This means that you can have the needle come down to the right or left of the usual center needle position.  Of course, the presser foot you use has to have some width to the hole for the needle or else the needle will hit your foot.  Also, some machines have multiple needle plates.  That is the plate that surrounds your feed dogs, and has the hole that your needle goes down into when you are making stitch.  Some of those needle plates only have a small round hole for straight stitches in the center needle position.  If you want to adjust your stitch width you need to make sure the needle plate you have on your machine has an oval hole for the needle to go into, rather than a round hole.

If you can't find a way to adjust stitch width and stitch length, and you have looked in your manual, don't fret.  Some basic machines have this built in so that when you choose your stitch you also choose your stitch length and width (the Janome Jem Gold for example).

Get to know your machine and try all the different options you have for stitch choices and how you can change the way they look by adjusting the length and width.  Knowing exactly what your machine can do will give you confidence to try more things!

Happy Sewing!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #5 (Needles are Important)

I'm going to start with the very basics of how to change a needle.  Before you change the needle on your machine stick a post it note or something under the needle. Needles are often dropped and if they go down into your machine you can have a big problem.

* Remove the old needle and discard in a safe place - I keep an old plastic container where I discard sharps.
* Pick up new needle, put the FLAT side of the shank toward the BACK, rounded in front.
* Place it up into the needle bar as far as it will go, you can damage your machine if the needle is not inserted all the way.
* Tighten the screw for the needle. Don't over tighten or you will have trouble changing your needle next time.
* Using the handwheel, bring the needle down and back up to it's highest position, now you know it is inserted correctly and won't hit your bobbin.

If you want to know more about needles, keep reading.

Needles seem like such simple little things, don't they?  Not so! They are made with precision.  There are books written just about sewing machine needles, It is amazing how exact they have to be made in order to do their job correctly, and there are many different kinds with a variety of purposes.


First you need to know what kind to buy.  A Sharp needle is made for sewing on woven fabrics. It is called a "Sharp" because, of course, the point is very sharp.  A Ballpoint needle is for sewing on knits.  A Ballpoint needle has a rounded tip so it will go between the yarn making up fabric, instead of piercing it. A Universal needle is between the two, can sew on woven and knit fabric. It has a slightly rounded but still sharp point. So why not always go with a Universal needle?  If you sew occasionally,  Universal needles may be all that you will ever need, but the phrase "jack of all trades and master of none" fits the situation here. If you are sewing on a knit and you are having lots of skipped stitches and have tried re-threading, you need a ballpoint needle. I sew with knits frequently, and I always get better results with a ballpoint needle.

Needles come in different sizes, depending on what thread you are using.  Most spools of thread will tell you what size needle works best.  Topstitch thread is heavier than regular thread and needs a bigger eye in the needle.  If the eye is too small it will gradually shred the thread while you are sewing and you will get lots of thread breaks.

Start off with a pack of Universal needles with multiple sizes.  If you don't have the size needle that you need, it's better to go up in size - unless you are sewing on vinyl or leather.  You don't want to poke a bigger hole than necessary in those.  The numbers on the packages tell you the size - just remember the smaller numbers are for finer needles and smaller eyes, larger numbers for thicker needles and larger eyes. Check your spool of thread to see what will work best for you.

There are many more choices of needles, but these are the basics and should help you get started!

Happy Sewing!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #4 (Basic Sewing Supplies)

After you figure out how to use your machine, of course now you want to make something!  I'm going to recommend some basic sewing supplies.  Everyone has their favorites. I will tell you what mine are.  There are many different opinions, and of course, how often you sew and the kinds of things you make will determine some of the supplies you will need.


Basic Sewing Supplies

Sharp scissors
Thread
Seam ripper
Pins/Pin Cushion
Machine needles
Measuring tape

Trying to sew without these will be very difficult, so get these basics.  A seam ripper may have come with your machine.  Your machine may also have included extra bobbins, sewing machine oil (NOT REGULAR HOUSEHOLD OIL!), a small brush, small screw driver and some plastic circular discs that go on top of spools of thread.

If these things did not come with your machine, you will eventually need to get them.  Put them on your shopping list.  If you sew often you will want to have them soon.  Let me explain what some of them are.

Machine Accessories

Extra Bobbins are important to me because I do a lot of sewing, and I want to be able to put all the different colors I use on different bobbins so I am all set and ready to sew.  I hate the thought of unwinding the thread on a bobbin so I can put a different color on it. What a waste!

Sewing Machine Oil is absolutely NOT the same as household oil - even if that oil has a picture of a sewing machine on it!  Whoever started doing that should have to replace all the machines that have been gunked up and ruined!  Sewing machine oil is much lighter than regular oil, and is vital to keeping your machine happy.  Sewing machine repair people will tell you that when someone brings them a machine with problems, it is usually because it is full of lint and needs oil.

A Small Brush is needed to sweep out lint in the bobbin area.  Thread causes lint, and if you want things to work well, you have to keep it clean.

A Small Screw Driver is needed, depending on your machine, to take off the needle plate, maybe to change needles or presser feet or for opening and oiling your machine.  Check to see if you need one.  If any of those things can't be done without a screw driver you will need one very soon!


Spool Caps, those small plastic discs that go over the end of your spool, are very important.  They may look like some little cheap, unimportant part, but without them the thread can get caught along the rough edge of the spool.  This can mess up your sewing, and it is so hard to figure out what is happening!  Really, that is all it takes to drive you crazy.  Seriously.

Next Step Essentials

These next things will come in handy if you do much sewing. Sewing clothing takes different tools than quilting.  I do both, so I may or may not have drawers over flowing with various accessories that are very precious to me. Maybe.

Disappearing Marking Pens are very handy to have.  For generations people have been marking their fabric with chalk, or bar soap.  Those methods work, but there are so many options these days.  My favorite is just a water soluble pen.  It makes an easy to see bright blue mark, then when you get it wet, it disappears.  I also have pens that make a bright mark and then disappear when you iron over them.  I also have an air pen that makes a purple mark that disappears in a few hours all by itself.  Lots of choices here!

Hand Sewing Needles come in handy too.  My motto has always been, "If you can't do it on a sewing machine, why bother?", but honestly, sometimes you do need to do something by hand.  It may be sewing on a button or snap, tacking down a facing, etc.


Thread Snips are so handy, and easy to grab to quickly snip loose threads.  I keep some near my machine and my iron so I can quickly get rid of messy looking threads.

An Iron is a necessity to me.  It makes a huge difference in the finished look of whatever you are making.  I joke that I sew with my iron as much as my sewing machine!  You can make things look so much more crisp and exact and finished when you have been pressing all throughout the construction of your project.

Now if you want to quilt, which I LOVE, there are other things you will need - rotary cutter and mat, various sizes of rulers, 1/4" presser foot and whatever the latest quilting gadget is...

Until next time --- Happy Sewing!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #3 (Upper Tension)

So how did your first line of stitching turn out?  I hope it looked great ... but if it didn't, never fear!  We can figure this out!  A good stitch is balanced.  The top thread is supposed to pull the bobbin thread up to the middle of the two layers a fabric.

This is determined by the tension on your thread. There are tension discs that your top thread goes between when you thread your machine.  These discs are open when your presser foot is up, and closed when the presser foot is down.  Always have your presser foot lifted when you thread your machine, so the thread can seat properly between the tension discs.  If your thread doesn't get between the discs, your top thread won't have tension on it, and you will get  loops of loose thread on the bottom of
your fabric.  The stitches may look perfect from the top, but the bobbin is pulling too much of the top thread down under the fabric.  If this happens you should re-thread your machine (making sure your presser foot is lifted).

You can adjust your top tension, usually with a dial.  The tension dial will be set to somewhere near the middle. A higher number means more tension, lower number is less tension.  If you are moving it all the way to one end or the other there must be another problem.  We will talk about other problems and solutions in another post.

If your tension is too tight it may pucker the stitches a little or make your thread fray or snap or pull bobbin thread to the top. If that happens you should loosen your tension a little.

Here is the most important thing to remember - 9 times out of 10 when your machine is doing something odd one of these three things will fix it:

*Re-thread the top thread
*Take out the bobbin and make sure you are putting it in correctly
*Put in a new needle

It is a magical solution to most sewing machine problems, write that down and put it next to your machine!

HERE is a blog with some beginner sewing projects - choose one and let's start sewing!


Happy Sewing!!

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #2 (Sewing Machine FUNdamentals)

You made it to the second lesson - hooray for you!

Once you have your machine threaded with the top thread and the bobbin...

First: pull some thread from the needle so you have about a 6 inch length.  Hold on to that thread with your left hand as your turn the handwheel with your right hand.  Make one rotation so that the take up lever is again in the highest position.  Now pull on the thread you are holding with your left hand, this will bring your bobbin thread up to the surface of your machine.

In the back of your machine, behind the needle you will find the lever to raise and lower your presser foot. 

You probably have several presser feet that came with your machine. We will talk about all the different presser feet another time.  The one you see here is  a quarter inch foot that I use a lot for piecing quilts, or other things where I am using a straight stitch.


This is called the "feed dogs". I have no idea where it got it's name, but, well, that's what it is.  The feed dogs come up, move back, go down and come up in the front again.  With the presser foot pushing your fabric against the feed dogs, that is what propels your fabric through the machine.

Second: Now just to make sure we get some actual sewing done, lift the presser foot, slip two layers of fabric under it, lower the presser foot and push gently on the pedal.  Hopefully you sewed those two pieces of fabric together!!

Don't worry if things don't look quite right, we will talk about what can go wrong and how to fix it in our next lesson.

And don't forget to comment on what a great mom I am   :)

Very Beginning Sewing Lesson #1 (Threading, etc.)

Much to my delight, my youngest daughter has decided she would like to learn how to sew!  I did some mending for her while she was visiting over the holidays, and she decided that was a really practical skill to have.

Now I have the dilemma of how to teach her while we live thousands of miles apart.  Of course there are tutorials on line... but I want to teach her, ya know?

Anyway, I'm beginning some sewing lessons here, just for fun, and you never know, maybe another daughter or daughter-in-law will decide they want to learn!

Lesson #1

First: learn to thread your machine, wind a bobbin and put it in correctly.  I could show you how to thread my machine, but yours would be a little different. Refer to your manual, usually available on line if you don't have a printed copy.  Correctly threading your machine is very important.  It will not sew well if you skip any of the steps.  Often there are also YouTube videos if you search with the name of your machine. 

Second: if you have a mechanical machine instead of a computerized machine, the most important habit you can learn is to use your handwheel to always bring the take up lever 
to it's highest point whenever you stop your machine, before you try to pull your fabric out from under your needle.



In order to make a stitch, your machine has to pull up some extra thread so there is enough to slide around the bobbin to make a stitch. The take up lever  moves up and down, and you can see it as you watch your machine sew.  Here is a link with a short explanation of how a machine makes a stitch:


In order to bring your take up lever to it's highest position, you need to turn the handwheel (it's round and on the right end of your machine) toward you - in a counter clock wise motion. If you move it away from you in a clock wise motion you can jam your machine - fixable, but make your life easy and get in the habit of moving it toward you.



Here is a helpful diagram I found online. 

Hoo boy, I am just too funny! You know you are here because you think I'm funny too! No, really, HERE is a helpful diagram I found online.


Yeah, that's a little more helpful, huh? OK, that's the lesson for today. More soon!

Happy Sewing!!

(You should probably make a comment like, "Thanks Mom, this is great"... or something)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Peeling Print on your T-shirt?

I wish I had taken a picture! Well, I didn't think of it, but here is a fix for a poorly done heat transfer on a T-shirt that starts to peel off.  Now, this is not the same as an old print that is cracking, I didn't try it on one of those, I suspect the results might not be the same.

Lay shirt flat on ironing board, you are going to be applying a lot of heat, and you don't want to press wrinkles into your shirt that will be difficult to remove. Put a piece of parchment paper over the peeling print and press over that with a hot iron - about 10 seconds.  DON'T TOUCH YOUR IRON DIRECTLY TO YOUR SHIRT!  Wait 30 seconds and slowly peel the parchment paper off.  I did  this while it was still warm, but not totally cooled off.  If you missed a spot and part of it is still peeling, just do it again.

I fixed two shirts for my grandkids that were visiting me, and they are as good as new!  They were cheap shirts bought in the Old City of Jerusalem, but I would like for them to enjoy the shirts as long as they can.

If you want your printed shirts to last longer, wash and dry them inside out - or better yet, don't put them in the dryer at all.

Good luck with your shirt!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's easy to upholster dining room chairs!



My daughter just moved into a new home and is making everything look great! Her dining room chairs, however, did not looks so great. We had made a temporary cover for them before, but the time had come to dig in and do it right. These chair covers not only had food stains, but they had been decorated with markers - I'm sure the artist thought they were lovely, but they just didn't look right in a formal dining room!

I turned to that wonderful resource - YouTube for some guidance. There are TONS of tutorials on how to cover a dining room chair, and I watched a bunch of them. Unfortunately, not all of them ended up with a chair that looked good! I don't know why they would make a tutorial where the end product looked awful, but the lesson here is that not everyone who uploads a tutorial knows what they are doing. So, I'm not making a tutorial, but I will share my source!

If this is a project you are thinking of doing, it isn't hard, so go ahead and give it a try! This tutorial is excellent! He talks you through exactly what he is doing and why, and has links to more detailed explanations if you have any questions. He is a professional and it looks beautiful when he is done.

Here are the chairs we did.  My daughter and I were having such a great time chatting and working together that I forgot to take pictures of our work in progress, but here is the finished product - don't they look great? I feel like it is something I will totally feel comfortable doing again.


I love the way her dining room looks now!

Friday, September 22, 2017

OH NO! Bleeding red dye!!

I am so discouraged. I washed all my red fabric, I really did. Then I put it in a bucket of water to see if any of it was still bleeding. Nada. So why is this happening???

I had marked this block with the marker that disappears when you get it wet. I sprayed it and went to press the block and look what happened -AAAHHHH.

Why does red have to be the most unstable dye color? Why does it have to be my favorite color? Why do I keep wanting to put it into quilts? When will I learn???












And look at these other blocks that have this same fabric in them, (In my mind as I see these pictures I hear music from a scary movie)! I can change the ones that just have this for a border, but what about the applique?


Now I'm trying to decide: should I just attack it now, pick out millions of stitches and get this fabric out of my quilt - or should I put it all away for a little while and come back to it later?










Aaargh.  I love quilting, really, I  do...

Big frowny face.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Baby Quilts with Babies...

You know you wanted to see pictures of my quilts being modeled by babies, didn't you? I got to spend the whole summer back in the USA because, well, because! I left my hubby in Jerusalem and did my grandma duties, much to my delight! I had a grandbaby born in June, and one born in August, so I traveled around and got to visit each of my kids. What a wonderful way to spend the summer! So here is the June baby, modeling his sailboat quilt.

When his older brother and sister saw me taking pictures of him on his quilt they ran and got the quilts I had made for them, so ya know, of course I had to take pictures of them too!

Here is big sister.

And here is big brother.
Then I traveled around and ended up in Texas for this baby!  Oops, that's not the picture of him enjoying his quilt, ha ha! I laid him down to take pictures and he started making the most awful faces - I quickly took a few pictures and then scooped him up for cuddles.
Here he is enjoying his quilt, or at least not looking as sad as the first picture!

I don't think there is anything as wonderful as being a grandma!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Window Seat Treatment

My experiment. I went to visit my daughter and her family in their new house. My son-in-law has an office in their house.  It has a window seat with beautiful pink cushions - which he doesn't think are the right look for his office! These are nice pillows, and they were moved up to a daughter's bedroom.


Almost as soon as I walked through the door he asked me if I could re-cover the foam cushion and make him some new pillows. Of course I had an idea of how to do it, but I wanted to make sure it looked professional. I searched tutorials on YouTube and found several. I watched them all. Some of them looked awful when they were done, so I didn't use those,  :)

Here it is all finished!


There is piping around the cushion and two of the pillows, and fringe around the other two pillows.

I have a son with an upholstery shop, I sent him a picture and he said he would hire me any time. I guess I won't ever need to starve!

Have a fabulous day!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

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