Archive for the ‘tips and tricks’ Category

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My ironing board cover was so old that I might as well have been ironing on the bare metal. Needless to say a new cover was long overdue. Originally I thought I wanted to do this

The Perfect Sewing Room Ironing Board Cover
Photo credit

and I even bought that Alexander Henry fabric to do so but I never seemed to get around to it. So when I finally got around to it this week I decided a print fabric would be too busy. I take a lot of in progress pictures on my ironing board and I didn’t want to detract attention from the object I was photographing. The ironing board also lives in our living room/sewing room and it needs to be understated so it blends- gray was perfect that. I used a Kona Cotton chosen from my stash because I had enough of it.

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I loosely followed this tutorial from Make Something.

She doesn’t mention adding batting but I cut two layers of an organic cotton batting I had on hand.

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And because I’m a “genius” and took my old ironing board cover off when I started to make the new one I had to leave the pins in while I sewed the casing for the twine.

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I also sewed the twine in place so that I wouldn’t have to thread it through and I skipped the button hole. It’s a great feature but I wasn’t in the mood to tackle the buttonhole attachment on my sewing machine so I simply left about a one inch gap in the casing for the strings to come out.

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And it’s done 🙂 The whole thing only took an hour or so.


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assorted aug 02 022, originally uploaded by Make it Modern.

So I have a secret or rather a confession to make, I’m not a huge Far, Far Away fan and honestly I’m not a huge fan of Hope Valley either. I know among modern quilters that makes me a bit of an outcast or freak but it’s the truth.

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I think the Far, Far Away fabrics are cute but I’m not in love with the designs and the whole double gauze cotton thing- not a fan. It’s expensive (although rightly so) and it’s tricky to quilt with. When it came out I only bought a couple fat quarters (what can I say I do think the frogs are super cute…) I didn’t really have a plan on using them but when Castle Peeps came out I had the idea of making a blue, gray, and yellow quilt for my nephew Emmerson and I knew the frogs would be perfect with the blue castles. When I bought the Castle Peeps fabric the store had some of the blue unicorns left and well those colors go really well together too… So I bit the bullet and decided to try my hand at quilting the double gauze cotton and Kona Cotton solids.

assorted aug 02 021

The verdict after quilting is much the same as it was before although I now have first hand experience to base that opinion on. While beautiful the double gauze fabric requires a more delicate hand then regular quilting cotton. I didn’t prewash mine for fear of it unraveling in the wash. Unwashed it frayed along the edges rather easily and I didn’t think it worth the risk. As it was I messed up a couple times and had to rip out stitches and while it didn’t ruin or destroy the fabric it did unravel more then regular cotton would. My major complaint though isn’t with that aspect of the fabric but rather it’s stretchiness. Double gauze is supposed to be a bit stretchy, it’s just how it’s made but in quilting stretching is bad. It’s especially bad when trying to make precise angles which I wasn’t even trying to do. I was cutting wonky squares, trying to embrace the qualities of the fabric, but the cuts wouldn’t stay straight for the life of me. Part of it was my heavy hand with the iron. The more I tried to flatten it the more it spread and when it spread it didn’t do so evenly. It would also stretch out of line when I was sewing it to the Kona Cottons and again as I was doing the actual quilting. Since I was using small pieces it’s not too noticable and the overall look of the quilt is worth the effort but I don’t think I would use it again. It’s not hard to use and I’ve seen some beautiful quilts made with it but you have to be careful. No prewashing, very light hand with the iron and go slowly when piecing so the fabric doesn’t shift or stretch. As for quilting well I went light on the pins on the double gauze because I didn’t want to put any more holes in it then I had but but that also made it less stable during the quilting process so I suppose it’s a toss up.

And now it’s your confession time, what popular designers are you not a fan of?

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fabric 010, originally uploaded by Indie House.

“One Yard Wonders” was a must have on my Christmas list this year and thankfully Santa was kind enought to oblige me. Of course the danger in getting any crafting book is that after the first perusal it will sit gathering dust on the bookshelf.

To prevent this I’ve decided to make at least five projects from this book in the next six months. It may not seem like a lot when you consider that there are 101 projects in the book but well here’s the deal. Like any other crafting/sewing book 1/3-2/3 of the projects are repeats of projects you can find in any other crafting/sewing book or find free instructions for online. There are slight variations of course but at some point an apron is an apron and a bag for laundry is just a laundry bag. When you buy a book like this you have to go into it realizing that and either the author’s style/concept or a few more original projects make the book worthwhile. For me it was the concept, I buy a lot of fabric that doesn’t match any other fabric I have because I’ve “fallen in love” with it. My default purchase is one yard because anything less seams like it won’t go very far.

My first project is the laptop sleeve. I’m traveling to Switzerland and Germany for work in a couple weeks and I want to protect my laptop for the journey.

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I wanted something somewhat professional since this is a work trip so I used this bold black and white home decorate weight fabric from Alexander Henry. I don’t usually waste good fabric for the lining of a project and this was no exception, instead I used a purple/berry kona cotton. It’s jewel tone a nice counter point to the black and white print.

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As I mentioned the concept of the book is a collection of projects using one yard of fabric but this project only took about 1/2 yard depending on the size of your laptop. I skipped the applique piece, which is what makes their laptop sleeve different but I didn’t really want a wiener dog decorating my work laptop sleeve.

The instructions in the pattern are concise and for the most part easy to follow. I got a bit tripped up trying to figure out if I was putting the right or wrong sides together but it’s easy enough to figure out.

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This project was the first time I’ve ever dropped my feed dogs. I know it’s not a big deal to some people but for me it was a bit scary. I’ve always kept my feed dogs firmly in place and stuck to straight line quilting. My stitches are far from perfect but I can see improvement even over the course of this small project. Honestly, you can’t even see the quilting on the outside so it doesn’t really matter.

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The only tricky part of this project for me was the double fold bias tape.

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I don’t use it that often and the instructions in the book are sadly lacking. Most of these books have a small section at the front going into more detail about the specifc techniques used in the projects. I realize space is a premium and they can’t explain everything in detail in any book but I still think they could have done a better job. At a loss for guidance from the book I went to the internet and my favorite double fold bias tape tutorial from the Angry Chicken.

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That accomplished my laptop sleeve was done!

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The whole project only took a couple hours and I’m quite happy with my new laptop sleeve. It fits my computer nice and snuggly and will certainly protect it from getting banged around during my world travels. Next up I’m going to make a small drawstring pouch for the cord so it doesn’t get lost or tangled in my bag.

Don’t have the book but want to make a laptop sleeve? You can find free instructions from Sew, Mama, Sew here.

Want one but don’t want to make it yourself? You can buy one here.

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Self Drafted Skirt Pattern, originally uploaded by Indie House.

When I reviewed Amy Butler’s Barcelona Skirt I said your money would be better spent buying Sew What! Skirts because it teaches you to make a variety of skirts including an A-line like the Barcelona. But I said that never having attempted to draft my own pattern and I will admit the idea of doing so was a bit intimidating. After all people spend whole semesters or even years learning the art of pattern drafting- how much could I learn from a book?

The answer is quite a lot. Of course it helps that skirts are relatively easy to make in their simplest form and as your skill and confidence grow you can build on the basics taught in the book. My first attempt was the “Polka Dotty,” a simple straight skirt with side zipper and two side slits. I made mine in a nice, slightly stretchy dark denim.

The glory of drafting your own skirt pattern is that you are creating a skirt that will be ideal for your body so accurate measurements are key. I suggest having a friend do the measurements.

You will need:

A tape measure
pen and paper

Step 1:

You will need to measure your “waist,” hips, and the distance from waist to hips. Where you put your waist is entirely up to you, I placed mine about an inch below my belly button. Since this is arbitrary I suggest making a small mark on your skin with the marker.

Step 2:

Measure your hips. This measurement should be taken at the fullest point of your hips, usually indicated by where your buttocks protrude the most. Again place a small mark on your skin indicating where you took this measurement directly below where you placed the mark for your waist measurement.

Step 3:

Measure the distance between your waist and hips. If you decide not to use the marks it may be hard to get an accurate measurement because you may have forgotten where exactly you defined your “waist.”

Step 4:

These measurements will become the building blocks of all you future skirt patterns so accuracy is key. To these measurement you will add your seam allowance and ease.

Most commercial patterns use a 5/8 in seam allowance but you may find it simpler to use 1/2 in. If you find the skirt is to tight you could reduce the seam allowance but be careful there is a reason most seamtresses use 1/2- 5/8 in allowance.

The amount of ease is entirely up to you, your body shape and the type of skirt you are drafting. For my straight skirt I wanted it fairly form fitting but not skin tight.

To recap:

Waist = waist measurement + seam allowance (SA)+ ease then divide by four (for fabric cut from a folded fabric)

Hip = hip measurement + SA+ ease then divide by four

Waist to Hip = waist to hip measurement + SA at waist

Length= desired length + hem + SA at waist

Step 5:

Draft pattern using these measurements.

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canonjuly09 010, originally uploaded by Indie House.

Is it just me or is space always at a premium in your sewing/crafting area? It doesn’t matter if you have a temporary space you set up in your dining room or a dedicated room, stuff just seems to multiply and conquer any area.

In order to try and maintain order in the face of chaos I’ve come up with a couple tips. One is using a prescription bottle to hold my seam ripper and embroidery scissors. These two little tools are the two most reached for items while sewing (although I’m slowly using the seam ripper less and less).

All I did was take an old prescription bottle and decorate it with a little Japanese tape to dress it up a bit.

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Then I added a bit of double sided poster tape. The poster tape is thick and a bit foamy which is neccessary to attach the curved prescription bottle to the curved sewing machine.

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Add viola- instant handy holder!

I keep all of my sewing feet and extra needles in this case that came with my sewing machine and although the spaces for the feet are labeled I can’t always remember which is which.

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So I created a cheat sheet and taped it to the inside of the plastic case.

The case and instruction manual are usually tucked under the extension table of my sewing machine for easy access.

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Do you have any cool space saving tips to share?

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final nesting spot, originally uploaded by annaleahart.

You know these birds right? They’ve been floating around blogland for over a year now and the pattern can be found for free here.

And while they are cute you may be asking yourself what you would do with them after you’ve made your own flock (because really could you make just one?) So here are ten creative ways to make those birds earn their keep.

1. Holiday Ornament. Probably the most common use of the birds they don’t have to be restricted to the Christmas tree they can also be used to celebrate Easter or Valentine’s Day.

Originally uploaded by Peapods




2. Mobile. This is probably the second most common use for these birds and you can see quite a few examples here.

Originally uploaded by Craft & Creativity








3. Wall Art aka a more grown up version of a mobile. I really like this idea and would like to make one for my own dining room.

4. Centerpiece or mantle decoration. Is your vase of bare branches looking a little bare dress it up with some birds.

Originally uploaded by lorelei-for-kids





5. Cat Toy. When stuffing add a little catnip and you will be your cats new best friend. It’s best to use a more durable fabric and double stitch so your cat doesn’t tear its new toy apart.

6. Lavender Sachet. Along the same lines add lavender and let your bird sweeten up your drawers.

7. Wreath. Spruce up your door everyday of the year with this cute fabric wreath.

Originally uploaded by Holland Fabric House







8. Cake Topper. How cute would these two look on top of a wedding cake and you can customize them for any color or style!

Originally uploaded by spoolsewing





9. Paper weight. Add some rice to your bird and he can hold down your important documents.

10. Pincushion. How cute would one of these guys look sewn to a wristband?

Originally uploaded by melingo wagamama





Can you think of anything I missed?

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Burda 7834, originally uploaded by Indie House.

I love my new blouse I just wish I could take a deep breath without worrying about busting a seam! Yeah it’s a bit tight around the rib cage, I made a size six which fits most of my measurements, too bad lower rib cage isn’t a measurement I could have factored in.

That said I still planning on wearing this shirt ALOT. It’s totally whimisical with the deep purple Lecien fabric and the orange polka dots. I don’t think I’ll be blending into the crowd on this one.

By now darts are a breeze for me but lining up the points when piecing the top front and bottom front was a bit harder. If you look closely you can tell mine isn’t quite right it should look like this-

nani iro top, originally uploaded by dorathy.

There isn't a whole lot of skill involved it's a matter of playing with the placement and then pinning it when it is "just so" and possibly hand basting before you stitch it. Oh well you can't really tell on mine unless you are up close.

The skill I did need to master was sewing curves! I got stuck when it came time to put the right side of the collar against the right side of the upper front, baste, stitch and then turn. When you read it and look at the fabric you think the curve of the collar should be matched with the curve of the blouse but it's actually the opposite. You should lay them together like this-

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So that when you stitch them together and turn the collar out the curves will match.

When lining up curves I like to pin the two edges first so you don’t get overhang or not enough fabric of any one side. That seems to happen when you start from one side and pin your way around. Then I put pins in any other key places like seams.

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Then I will alternate sides placing pins to evenly distribute the fabric. As I put the fabric through my machine I let it curve until right before it goes under the needle. If you try to force the curve straight it’s going to come out all wonky. When it should look like this

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And then turned out

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All in all it’s a pretty easy pattern that can be completed in a couple hours. When using two different fabrics it calls for a yard of each but I only had a 1/2 yard of the orange dots so all my facings are white Kona Cotton. It’s a great way to save some money and stretch your favorite prints.

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I’m in Canda this week for work but I managed to squeeze in one more project before flying out on Monday. I rarely sit down and finish an entire project in one sitting but I imagine this would only take an hour or so if you focused on it. It took me about half a day but I also cleaned, watched TV, surfed the internet etc.

I fell in love with this fabric a couple months ago but only purchased a 1/4 yard since I didn’t know what I would actually use it for. That quarter yard was then cut up and turned into applique for my Birdie Sling and I loved it even more so I decided to order a couple yards :). I was afraid that this pattern would overwhelm me so I chose this simple halter to let the print shine but not become “too much.” The rest is going to become a sash for a yet to be made navy blue linen dress.

The directions are super simple for even the most beginner of beginners.

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The only complicated part was making the darts as this was the first time I had done so.

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I poked a hole through the paper pattern and all four pieces instead of attempting to transfer the marks to each piece individually. It was a little hard to see the poke holes on the last piece but still more accurate then the alternative.

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The top pin goes straight in but the bottom pin goes in one side and out the other and you bring the two sides together by sliding the fabric along the pin.

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Then draw a line connecting the two pin heads to form a triangle.

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Sew along this line backstitching at the beginning and end. The instructions say to pin this but I didn’t find it necessary.

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This is what they look like before pressing.

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One of the last steps is attaching the zipper and I got confused when looking at the diagram because it’s oriented as if you have the fabric right side down when in reality you want the right side up.

Amy Bulter Cabo Halter

I made a size small and didn’t need to make any adjustments to get a nice form fitted look. Please note that the top does bow away from your bust because the ties are straight. I knew this would happen and you can see it on the cover model but I didn’t feel like messing with the pattern to fix it. If you cut the inside line of the straps in a curve you would get a better fit.

I may take the straps to the back as opposed to tying it so that I get a more versatile look- I want to wear this under a cardigan and not look like I’m wearing a summer top. It may just be me but I think tied neck designs like this are very informal and summery but I want clothes that can also be dressed up to be worn either to work or at least in other seasons.

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I really need to finish my sister’s quilt considering I’m going to see her in a couple days. All I have left to do is attach the binding but it’s so tedious… In my previous quilts I used a straight stitch on the front side, pulled the bais tape over and whipstitched the back. I really didn’t like the results, I realize my whipstitch could use some work but even done right I still think it’s to obvious. Little did I know that people “in the know” use the ladder stitch to attach their binding.

If this is news to you check out this awesome photo tutorial I found. I find most photo tutorials of stiching to be hard to see, the stitches are so small and are usually designed to blend so Turning Turning even included a couple line drawings to help us understand where to put the thread and how it all comes together.

As soon as I can motivate myself to get off the couch I’m going to give this technique a try. My results may be a little unreliable since I have a feeling I’m going to end up doing this in the car on the way to my sister’s. What can I say, I know I’m a procrastinator ;).

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If you are just getting into sewing for the first time ever or for the first time since high school home ec you are probably wondering what kind of tools you are going to need and what its going to cost to buy all that stuff. To help you out I’ve compiled a list of 15 “must have” tools. You don’t always need to buy the most expensive option but you probably don’t want to go with the cheapest option either.

1. Bent handle shears- the more expensive the better, and they can get really spendy!

My sick new Gingher shears, originally uploaded by Trunkbutt.

I got mine during a 50% off sale at Jo-Ann’s for $20. You want shears with a good amount of heft, a nice shape for your hands and a sharp cutting blade. Scissors need to be sharpened yearly, I’ve seen Jo-Ann’s offer to do this for free once a year but you could probably get it done any time for a couple dollars. Never use these for anything other than fabric or you will dull your blade and curse yourself for ruining expensive fabric with a bad blade.

2. Regular Straight Scissors. Quality isn’t as important here since you will be using this to cut patterns and tracing paper but you will still want to keep it sharpened and using it to cut things like plastic is really a no-no as you will dull the blade prematurely.

3. Embriodery Scissors. These little scissors are the best at cutting all those pesky threads that are left over whenever you start or finish a line of stitching. You can also use them to cut off the thread ends when sewing on a machine if your machine doesn’t automatically do that for you. These can be very ornate-

Stork Embroidery Scissors, originally uploaded by the workroom.

Or simple and inexpensive like my basic black ones that cost about $5.

4. Pinking Shears- In case you aren’t familiar with pinking shears, the scissor blades are notched and mesh together to cut fabric in a crisp zigzag pattern. Pinking shears are commonly used to help prevent fabric from fraying. It’s a good idea to use pinking shears on the cut edges of fabric before you wash them to prevent the tangle of fraying threads that would happen otherwise.

Pinking Shears, originally uploaded by quaint handmade.

Cutting with pinking shears requires a slightly different technique than using regular scissors. Hold the pinking shears straight when cutting fabric. If the pinking shears are held at an angle, they will not cleanly cut the fabric. Instead, they will chew the fabric and can even rip it. Hold the scissors straight and steady as you bring the blades together. Begin cutting from the second rear tooth or else the cloth could catch. After the cut is made, release the scissors, move them along the fabric, lining the last “notched cut” with the teeth in the pinking shears blade. Cut the fabric and continue in this fashion. To achieve best results, always completely close the scissors blades together in a full cut.

5. Straight Pins- Pretty self explanatory these sewing room workhorses will keep things in place as you cut, sew or fiddle with your garments to get them to fit just right.

straight pins, originally uploaded by ophis.

6. Pincushion- You wouldn’t want those sharp little pins floating around, to easy to step on them and stick yourself. A pincushion keeps them in one place for easy use and organization. These can be simple or ornate. I’ve been thinking about making this one-

Pin Cushion, originally uploaded by melingo wagamama.

7. Needles- You will need needles for your sewing machine and hand sewing needles for finish work that cannot be completed on your machine. Universal needles are the most versatile and most, regardless, of brand will fit any machine. If you are going to use thicker/tougher fabrics like denim you’ll want to invest in the appropriate needles. You don’t necessarily have to know or understand the sizing as most will say on the package what they are designed for. Hand sewing needles are usually sold in variety packs of 20 or so needles. There are people that swear by certain brands of needles but most of us buy what’s available locally. Just make sure that you don’t overuse your needles. After 8 hours of use you should switch to a new one. I usually switch out mine after each project.

Needle Case, originally uploaded by tina.i.

8. Tape Measure- not your typical hardware store tape measure but a soft one designed for wrapping around your body and taking measurements. You can still get retractable ones but those are often twice as much as the regular ones. Accurate measurements are the key to getting a good fit out of your garments so you want a tape measure that is easy to read.

Tape Measure, originally uploaded by Darren Hester.

9. Seam Gauge- Also known as a sewing gauge or hem gauge, is basically a ruler. It includes a special slider which can be used to mark a desired measurement. When using a seam gauge, sewers can set the marker to a specific point and use it as a quick visual point of reference while pressing, pinning, or sewing a seam. A seam gauge can also be used to keep darts even. The hollow design in the middle allows you to use the seam gauge as a guide for your tailor’s chalk.

Hem Gauge, originally uploaded by Vincent Ma.

While these are designed to be flexible if your ruler gets bent out of shape you’ll want to go ahead and purchase a new one.

10. Clear Ruler- clear acrylic rulers and tools reduce the preparation time for your sewing projects while ensuring accurate cutting. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with the largest selection being found in the quilting section. The clear design allows you to sew any areas that you have already marked or sewn and reference them as you make your other measurements and cuts.

Quilt Rulers Anyone?, originally uploaded by SimplyThisAndThat.

11. Tailor’s Chalk- There are a number of marking tools on the market but tailor’s chalk is the classic choice. It’s easy to use, easy to see, and easily removed. You will want at least two colors, the most common are white and blue, to be used on light and dark fabric. The ones below are a solid waxy version ideal for marking on textured fabric. I use a powdered chalk applicator for my regular light to midweight cottons because the applicator creates a finer line. Other choices are water and air soluble pencils and pens. Keep in mind you always want to test these out on your fabric to make sure the marks can be removed.

tailors chalk, originally uploaded by louisemakesstuff.

12. Thread- a total necessity you’ll want a variety of colors for use in your various projects. I recommend getting large spools of black and white and then purchase the rest as needed. Never underestimate the amount of thread you will need, it’s amazing how fast you can go through a spool. Coats and Clark seem to be the most readily available thread and it comes in a variety of types and colors. Thread is clearly labeled for use- hand sewing, machine sewing, embroidery etc and you will want to follow these guidelines. I started using Gutermann (often viewed as a top of the line thread) only to find out my not so top of line sewing machine didn’t handle the tall, thin spools well.

Threads, originally uploaded by djspyhunter.

13. Seam Ripper- Seam ripping is a fact of life when sewing so you will want to have one of these handy. The goods news is that they are cheap and your sewing machine (if purchased new) will most likely come with one.

tool seam ripper, originally uploaded by alsokaizen.

14. Iron and Ironing Board- This is not a case where cost equals quality. There are people that swear by $500 machines and people that swear by $20 machines. Mine cost $10 and while it’s not great it does the job for the amount of sewing I do just fine. Just make sure you get a machine that can do steam and that has a variety of settings for different fabrics. You will also need a large ironing board. One of those table top models is not going to be big enough for most garment construction and crafting.

Herb ironing board cover, originally uploaded by howaboutorange.

15. Muslin- This is a cheap way to test out a pattern and make any neccessary alterations and adjusting before cutting into your expensive fabric. At the low end muslin is about $1.50 a yard and at the high end it can be $12 or $14. Price varies based on the quality of the muslin and the width. Certain fabrics are labeled “muslin” but you don’t have to use those, any fabric can be a muslin. The idea is that this is a test fabric so if it’s a total disaster you haven’t lost a lot of money in fabric. I have yards of a couple baby prints I purchased at a going out of business sales (I have no idea what I was thinking as I have no kids or friends with kids) so I’m going to use those until they run out.

muslin, originally uploaded by Yorktown Road.

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