Category: Sewing

Thread Painting – Butterfly Tshirt

I’ve seen various iterations of needle painting (thread painting, needle shading) and am finally trying it. While the technique isn’t difficult, it is seriously time consuming. Fortunately, Anya loves the butterfly thus far. I’ll probably make another shirt or two using this technique … but start with a size 6 or 7 shirt so she gets years of wearing it (and most of the embroidered shirts will either become a t-shirt quilt or appliqué patches on a larger shirt)

Pencil Pouch, Part 3

I finished Anya’s pencil pouch last night – she loves it!


With a special surprise:


She put her little toy cat into it to bring to kindergarten. A move that is especially goofy because I used to bring a toy cat to school with me (not my teacher’s favourite thing I did!) too.

When attaching the lining fabric, I left my 5″ gap along one of the hidden gussets. This means the generally visible interior seam is beautifully finished.



While the side gusset hides the hand-stitching in the gap:


Just like Anya’s backpack, I think the piping gives the pouch a finished look.



Pencil Pouch, Part 2

I finished quilting the pencil case exterior with a light blue thread. This thread from Missouri Star Quilt Company is fantastic. My machine is finicky, and some types of thread result in an ugly snarl on the bobbin thread side. There are a few tricks that help — proper thread tensions, realizing the bobbin thread comes off the right-hand side of the bobbin when it is inserted into the machine — but some threads are basically unusable. These stitches, however, are beautiful on both sides.


Next up – making the piping! If you have bias strips left over from other projects, homemade piping is easy and super cheap. I had about a yard and a half of blue checked double-fold bias tape from a quilt. I unfolded the tape to make a bias strip folded in half length-wise. I then took white 550 paracord (also on-hand from another project, otherwise you can find cotton cord that’s meant to be used in piping) and encased it in the bias strip. I pinned through the top of the cord to secure it to the fabric then used the edging/zipper foot to stitch along the cord, creating a loose piping. I hand-stitched the cord ends (paranoia, mostly … but it would really suck if the cord started to come out of the fabric casing!). The piping fabric shouldn’t be super taut at this point, but there shouldn’t be wrinkles or puckers. When the piping is inserted, the stitching will be closer to the paracord and make a nice firm piping.

Finished in part 3.

Pencil Pouch

We got Anya’s first school list, and it’s got the expected dozen glue sticks and half dozen boxes of crayons. But it also has a pencil pouch for art class. Seems like an opportunity to make something cute and practical. Perusing the Internet for pencil cases, I happened across a pattern for a zippered pencil pouch.

I wanted to use the flower presser foot to stitch flowers around the pouch, but mine doesn’t work! The throw on the sewing machine arm isn’t long enough to advance the ring. I quickly drew out a diamond pattern.

And am stitching it with a blue thread to match the piping fabric.

Continued in part 2.

Pieced Rainbow Circle Skirt

I am finally making the pieced circle skirt my mom had found a few years ago. I’d worked out the proper dimensions and created a pattern to make an Anya-sized circle: t uses fifteen different cotton solid fat quarters. I purchased the fabric in half-yard cut, then cut each piece into a fat quarter so mom and I can make skirts for both Aisha and Anya.

I was hesitant to make the skirt until I was more adept with my serger. After making a Peppermint Swirl Dress, I felt a lot more confident serging these curved pieces.

The pattern pieces did not include a seam allowance; the allowance was added on the fabric. I also traced the pattern piece itself, then serged the pieces together with the needle farthest from the blade along the pattern piece’s line.

I assembled the circles instead of making wedges.

The concentric rings matched up well (Whew! That was a big relief … I was worried that I’d end up with a wonky misaligned mess).

I cut strips of each colour for the waistband and attached them individually to the color-matching circle to ensure the corners lined up. Once each piece was in place, I connected the different colors together. The bottom hem needs to be turned up and stitched, but I’ve got a gradient rainbow circle skirt!


First Sewing Projects

Anya’s birthday present this year is learning to sew with a machine. I’ve already got sewing practice papers ready to go, and need to come up with a few projects for her to get started. She’ll do the project end to end (i.e. we’ll read through the instructions, figure out what it requires, shop for fabrics {shop may mean peruse mom’s stash} and hardware {certainly means peruse mom’s stash. Any component I don’t need quickly, I order direct from China via AliExpress for 80-90% less than retail.}, measure, mark, cut, sew. The only thing I’ll do is run the edges through the serger to ensure she doesn’t have frayed fabric.

So far, I have three projects for her:

A two layer gathered skirt – a project for the author’s five year old. I would love to find an all-over eyelet fabric in black and use it over a bright neon solid, but haven’t been able to find any all-over eyelet fabrics. So we’ll see what Anya likes. This teaches sewing straight lines & running elastic through a casing.

The ‘magic pillowcase‘ – I made one of these, so I know it’s pretty easy. This requires more straight line sewing, but adds complexity because the multiple layers of fabric need to be lined up. Also teaches the idea of getting some fabric out of the way so you can stitch things together.

A fabric belt with D-rings at the end. Turning a small tube right side out and top-stitching.

Kid Sewing

Anya wants a sewing machine — and while I try not to be a crazy overprotective “everything is going to kill you” mom … well, high speed pokey things coming at little fingers kind of freak me out. I kept her request in mind, though. Then this month’s Nancy’s Notions catalog had a finger-safe plastic foot in the front cover, complete with a young girl using the machine. That is exactly what I didn’t know I needed. So I set out to research a good beginner sewing machine for an almost five year old kid.

There appear to be two paths – a quasi-toy with a lot of safety features and simplified operation or portable sewing machines that are riskier to use and can be frustrating for few sewists. The deciding factor for me was the device’s useful life. I don’t want to buy something that will need to be replaced in a year or two when she’s more experienced in operating a machine. And I figure it’s best to learn everything at once rather than add the foot controller later — a bit like learning with a manual gearbox v/s learning with an automatic and then having to un-learn some bad habits that weren’t bad habits on an automatic. Plus Anya knows when we have a ‘real’ one and she’s got a ‘fake’ one for kids. I decided on the Janome Derby – a little five pound machine that has several stitch options. Happened to find it for sale at Michael’s for 60$ and they had a 20% off almost everything coupon — 51.60$ including tax!

I wanted to come up with some sewing practice for her, and I found a printable ‘sewing maze‘ online. Such an awesome idea – you haven’t “ruined” a project if you don’t sew exactly on the line. I printed a few copies for Anya (and a few for me). I could not find anything similar to practice sewing curves. Longer than I’d like to admit figuring out how to get Photoshop’s curvature pen to make a shape instead of a light blue ghost that doesn’t actually show up anywhere. (Once you’ve selected the tool, you have to change the ‘stroke’ setting from the white with a red line through it to, well, something. I nulled out fill, but I do not know if that was necessary.)

Once I could draw a smooth curve that prints instead of a fully printable squiggle or a lovely curve that disappears when you print or export, I have my own sewing practice sheets for curves and points! Now I just need to think of a cool project to do next.


Pumpkin Pie Poncho

I bought Candy Castle Pattern’s Pumpkin Pie Poncho pattern when it was first released. I finally made one today. It is a quick project. The pattern piece get cut up and isn’t really reusable. Saves paper if you are just making one, but requires extra printing or tracing if you are making multiples of the same size.

The pattern says it needs 1.25 yards of a 60″ wide lining fabric for a size 6. Problem is – I only had one yard of the flannel lining, and it was 42″. Looking at the pattern piece for the main body is not a rectangle – one side is a lot narrower than the other. Instead of folding the fabric in half and cutting two pieces along the folded line, I folded the fabric just enough the poncho body fit on the part with two layers. Cut one piece along the fold

Then unfold the fabric fold the *other* side down — there will be parts where there is only one layer of fabric – where the first piece was cut. Align the pattern piece so the widest section is away from the cut section. The narrow section of the pattern fits on the fabric with two layers. Cut the second poncho piece.

Unfold the fabric – there is a odd shaped bit adjacent to each poncho cutout – these can be used to cut the hood piece (or cowl). Voila – poncho lining from one yard of 42″ wide flannel.

When I started fitting the pieces together, I realized this could be done as a reversible poncho. Doing so required modifying the process a bit — the main piece fabric and lining were still aligned right sides together.

I used clips instead of pins, so Anya was able to ‘test’ the poncho as it was being constructed.

Serged along the bottom curve, turned right way about, and top stitched. The pocket fabric was still sandwiched between to attach it.

The top stitching runs right along the serged part, so it’s a little bit stiff and puffed up.

Then the fabric and lining along the arms were stitched separately – leaving the seams encased inside the ponch. The two pieces of each hood were serged together. The two hoods were nested inside each other, right sides together, and serged along the front. Turned the hood right side out and top-stitched along the front. The two fabrics, at this point, are free along the neckline. The main fabric of the hood was lined up, right sides together, along the poncho neckline and serged just to the main fabric poncho body.

The lining fabric was the tricky bit. The same basic process – line the fabric up, right sides together, with the poncho body lining material and serge it together. *But* it cannot be completely stitched on the machine a the stitching reduces the hole through which you are sewing the material. I serge it for all but about 5″ – moving the still-opened hole along the seam being sewn. I then turned the remaining edges over and hand-stitched the remaining bit that is right along the front neckline. Anya doesn’t like hoods that wrap around her neck (although she’ll wear a scarf, go figure!), so I modified the hood to have a small gap along the front.

The process is a little more difficult, but we’ve got a pawprint poncho and a snow leopard one. There’s no pocket on the flannel side — mostly because I didn’t have enough fabric 🙂 But she keeps her arms on the inside and uses the snow leopard pocket.


Peppermint Swirl Dress – Almost Finished!

I had put the peppermint swirl dress on hold whilst making her lion costume; now that Halloween costumes are all sorted, I wanted to try assembling this thing. It seems quite intimidating – fourteen different slices in the skirt, all curves. And the strips look too long. I know the instructions said the whole thing would look off until you attached the first and last slices to make a whole circle … but holding a single strip up against my tiny person, I thought this might be an adult-sized skirt. In fact, I think you could use one of the larger child size patterns to make a short adult skirt. There’s a lot of gathering to the bodice, and her size 6 fit around my waist.

I used Moda Marbles in vanilla and indigo. No matter how silly it sounds, I was quite paranoid about attaching the strips in the wrong order. And I’m only working with two colours! But someone else who makes these dresses posted her technique — stacking the fabric in the order it would be used, then just pulling the next piece of fabric off the pile as she assembles the skirt. Perfect! I could double-check the order — asked Anya to tell me the colours, and listed for the alternation.

Anyway, assembly looks intimidating. You’ve cut twenty-eight segments and attached them together into fourteen individual strips. That’s a big pile of fabric. The whole thing came together quickly – like thinking I must have done something wrong quickly. This is certainly a serger project – it’s a lot of seams, and I would be devastated to spend this much time cutting and assembling a project (and five yards of fabric, even cheap fabric, adds up) only to have seams fray after a few uses. With a serger, though, I was able to assemble the entire thing in a couple of hours . The arc of each slices can be held straight for the ~2 inches between the front of my serger and its needles. I quickly developed a technique of sewing slowly and aligning the two fabric pieces at the front of the serger.

It does look odd (and huge) as the pieces come together.

I still need to hem the bottom and attach some snaps, but I needed to check the size one last time. Anya is so thrilled with the dress, she wanted to keep wearing it.

And make sure it spun well.

And make sure it danced well.

She says it works 🙂

I need to fix the top-stitching along the neckline. The thread pulled funny in a few places, and I mis-judged the center V. Final step will be to hem the bottom – I’m thinking of a rolled hem to keep it light-weight and “spinny”.