Thursday, July 31, 2014

Understanding Sewing Patterns: Choose Wisely

If you never looked at this blag or any other sewing resource again, last week's sew-a-rectangle post would probably be good enough for a lot of projects. But if you want MORE, it's time to start looking at store-bought sewing patterns. Patterns can be bought online, or at your local fabric shop. Jo-Ann stores generally have a decent selection from the larger pattern companies, and sometimes a limited selection of other brands, as well.

There are many pattern houses (like publishing houses), but there are four large brands: Simplicity, and McCall, Butterick, and Vogue. Although McCall owns Butterick and Vogue, the patterns and styles are very different. There are many other smaller brands, like Burda, or independent designers, like Amy Butler, who produce and sell their own patterns. 

Despite the differences between each company, if you can understand how to use one pattern, you should have little difficulty with the others. In this post, I won't be touching fabric or my sewing machine at all, but instead going through what you should pay attention to when you're choosing a pattern. You must choose, but choose wisely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Accidental Table Runner

Full disclosure: when I did that sewing tutorial last week, I didn't really measure out my fabric properly. I thought it wouldn't matter if my scarf was a little bit wider, but the two layers of cotton ended up being thicker than I realized, even though one layer was lawn fabric (which is fairly soft and lightweight).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bag a Week: Triangle Yarn Box

When I was in high school, I made more bags than anything else in my sewing class. I distinctly remember my sewing teacher telling me once that she was getting the 8th graders to do a "Sandra project"--a tote bag. (Hi Nicola, if you're reading this!)

I've been obsessed about bags for about as long as I remember; I think this is natural when you're contstantly toting projects and books around with you, as I did as a kid. Shopping trips with my mom would frequently involve a stop in the accessories department in The Bay, to look through various purses and wallets. Many years later, this is all still true, and I have a box full of extraneous purses to prove it.

In the last couple of months, as I've had more time to sew, I've pushed myself to design and make a bag a week. I have a bunch of designs in a notebook I keep in whichever purse I'm using for the day, and even more in my head. Most of them start with a basic sketch showing what I want it to look like, and some notes on qualities I want to include.

These bag-a-week posts aren't intended to be tutorials so much as simple showcases of recent projects and some of the steps within, although I bet there will be a couple that would be worth laying out step by step.

The first bag I made was a variant of the yarn boxes that I posted last week. This one is triangular, and has pockets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sewing Basics: Make a Rectangle

Are you ready to sew? Are you pumped?? Do you want to fricken' sew things together already??? OK.

This post will take you through the steps to make a large rectangular scarf using quilting cotton. But really, what you will be doing is just sewing two rectangles together, so you don't have to be making a scarf. It could be a pillow, a handkerchief, a placemat, whatever.

Strawberry fabric I picked up on a whim in Dublin.
I don't think it's particularly Irish, but it's cute.
Materials needed:

  • Sewing machine: I assume that you have some basic knowledge about how to set up your machine with thread, how to turn it on, and how to make it sew. 
  • Fabric: How large do you want your finished object to be? You will need at least twice that amount of fabric. Some examples (assuming fabric is at least 44" wide):
    For a 20" x 80" scarf, you will want 2.5 yards (90" long)
    For a 20" x 20" pillow, you will want 0.75 yards (27" long)
    For a coaster, you will want at least 5.25"x5.25" of fabric
  • Thread to match your fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Chopstick (not even kidding)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Yarn Boxes

In 2011, I had an idea for a bag to hold a ball of yarn, and started drafting some pattern ideas. I already had a couple of simple cloth bags, which were great for toting knitting projects around, but were kind of flimsy, so my working yarn would get tangled in the handles. I designed these little fabric boxes, with have sturdy seams to keep them upright while open, but don't require any kind of stabilizers.

Each starts with a simple shape as its base; I started with a square, a hexagon, and an octogon. I recently also made one based off of a triangle, to start off my bag-a-week campaign.

Next week I'll post more about my bag-a-week project, which is to do exactly that: make one bag a week. I was pretty good for three weeks, but then we had a friend stay over for a while and I fell off the wagon for a bit. Being determined to blag about it, though, gives me more accountability!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fibres in Fashion

In my previous textiles posts, I've written about fabric basics, woven fabrics, and knit fabrics, but high-level and technical discussions can only get you so far. Today's Tuesday crash course is going to touch on fibre content and common fabrics to get you started.

There are three great reasons to be aware of fibre content:
  1. Texture affects how your fabric feels, how it drapes and hangs, and many other verbs related to what your project looks like in the end.
  2. Care is important to track, since washing can affect the texture and size of your fabric. For example, if you make a shirt that you intend to machine wash and dry, it's best to wash and dry the fabric before you cut the shirt to size.
  3. Cost. Some fibres, like cotton, are easy to find and easy to use, and won't cost you too much. How much do you want to spend on your project?
Having examples can help you understand different fibres and how it can affect the feel and drape of your finished project. Luckily, you (presumably) have a closet full of clothes, which can provide you with a variety of fibre samples.

From the American Cleaning Institute

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sewing Machine Needles

While you could use any needle for your projects, you'll get the best results if you use the right one. But knowing which needle is best is easy if you pay attention to your fabric and your thread. Today's crash course is to help you understand sewing machine needles.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Knit Fabrics

Happy Canada Day!

Last week we looked at woven fabrics, and this week we're going to do knit fabrics. The best way to really understand how knit fabrics are constructed are to learn how to knit. But that can take a lot longer than you might be wanting right now, so how about some paper crafts, instead?

Knit fabrics are stretchy. Think of any t-shirt you've worn, and you've got an example of knit fabric. This stretchiness can make knits more comfortable to wear, since they conform to your body more than wovens. But why are they stretchy? If you've ever unravelled a sweater or lost threads on a shirt, you might notice that the thread or yarn itself isn't as stretchy as the fabric itself.