Where have all the students gone?

Are in-person sewing classes going the way of the Dodo?  And if you are asking, “What’s a Dodo?” then you actually have the idea.  There are a tremendous number of learning opportunities online, from blogs, to webinars, to videos, to vlogs, to online sewing education providers… I think it’s marvelous.  I love the fact that I can sit down at my computer at any time of day or night and take a class on just about any sewing subject, often for a reasonable sum.

But the key words for me there are “at my computer.” My computer cannot look at terrible thread nest that just occurred at my sewing machine at 2am and help me figure out

a) how to fix it

and

b) how to avoid it happening again.

If I want to really improve my skills both rapidly and to an exceptional degree, there are three things I require. First, I need to learn the skill; second, I need to practice the skill; and third, I need feedback on my skill.  Computers, books, and teachers can all give me the first two, but the last one can only be found with a local human teacher.  Yes, it’s true that I do not need feedback on every skill I learn – many are relatively simple to learn by myself – but there are skills and troubleshooting that are much more efficient and effective when another experienced teacher can look at your work and help you out.

And what about our social needs?  I don’t know about you, but I find my interactions with friends decreasing each year.  I feel I don’t have time, and even when I find time, my friends don’t have time to get together.  But a sewing class allows you to get together with other like-minded people and enjoy your hobby together.  Awesome!

Although I love the online community and opportunities for learning, I am sad to see the decline in the number of students taking sewing classes in local dealerships and fabric shops. Is this really what we want? No more quilting bees? No more touching fabrics and looking closely at another person’s excellently sewn hem in order to learn from her (him)?

I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you look for in a sewing class?  Do you ever take in-person classes in your community?  Do you learn exclusively online?  How important is it to you to develop your skills to a high standard?  Do you just want to complete the project? What kinds of classes draw your attention?

I wish you a very beautiful new year full of sewing opportunities of all shapes, sizes, textures, and techniques!

Binding: Serger Quilt part III (finally)

I apologize for this taking so long.  Has anyone finished the quilt body?  Is anyone ready for binding yet?  Please send me a picture when you’re finished with your baby quilt. So, why put on a quilt binding with your serger?  First, it is fast.  Second, you end up with an evenly wide seam allowance, which means when you wrap your binding to the other side, your binding is even.  Third, if you use fusible thread in your lower looper, you fuse the binding down to the other side of your quilt and it holds it there, without pins, for you to sew down with your favorite sewing technique, either hand or machine. If you are just joining us, you can find Part 1 of this baby quilt here, and Part 2 is here.

Serger Quilt Binding

Materials: 1/2 yard binding fabric for straight grain binding decorative serger thread

  • if using embroidery thread, you need 2 spools of at least one color

water soluble glue, such as Sewline glue stitck, Scotch permanent glue stick, Elmers blue gel glue, or equivalent Construction: Cut four (4) 2 1/2 x WOF strips of binding fabric.

  • If quilt is larger than planned, cut 5 strips.  Cut one strip in half and sew each half onto the end of one of the other strips, so that two of the strips are longer than the other two.

To serge strips together: Lay one strip end perpendicular to the other strip end, right sides together with bottom strip going east-west and top strip going north-south. binding 1 If desired, draw a line from upper left to lower right of the square formed by the intersection of the two strips. Serge with the needle stitches falling on this line and with the knife cutting off the extra. binding 2

binding 3

Press seam to one side.

binding 4

Fold strips in half lengthwise and press. I wanted to add a piped detail to my binding, so I used the wave stitch on my serger.  You could also use a rolled hem or a narrow hem just as well.  Set your cutting or stitch width to the widest setting you can for the stitch you select, and set your stitch length to form a satin stitch, probably around 1.5mm. Although I like the sheen of embroidery thread on rolled hems, I find it is too fine for good coverage.  I fix this by putting two (2) threads through the same looper.  Since I have a Baby Lock, that means putting them both into the same looper port.  On a different brand serger just thread the loopers with the two threads as though they were 1 thread.  It works for all rolled hem applications.

fancy threads

2 in each looper

I then serged the wave rolled hem on the folded edge of the long strips of binding.  I chose to use a squared off binding, but you could also try this with a mitered binding.  I worried that the piped effect might get in the way with mitering, so let me know if you try it out!

Place the raw edge of the shorter piece of binding against the edge of the WRONG side of the quilt sandwich, and use a 4 thread overlock stitch, only trimming enough of the edge to even it out, to serge the binding to the quilt.  Repeat this on the other short edge.

binding attached

Fold the binding to the front of the quilt and use water soluble glue to hold the binding in place while you use a sewing machine to stitch in the ditch of the faux piping to attach the binding to the quilt.  Trim the ends even with the long edges of the quilt using a rotary cutter or scissors.  Why didn’t I let the serger trim the ends?  I wanted to be sure the serger didn’t get hung up on the multiple fabric and thread layers.

binding topstitched

You can also make this quicker by using a fusible thread in your lower looper.  Then when you press the binding to the finished side, you fuse the binding in place so it holds still while you stitch it down.

Repeat this process with the long strips of binding on the long edges. Make sure that the binding extends about 2 inches beyond the quilt at either end.  But what to do with those ends when you stitch it down?  The piped edging made it too thick for a traditional fold at the end. Fold the tail back on itself to the right side of the quilt, tuck the piped edge underneath the tail, then fold the binding down over the tail and stitch it in place.

binding corner 1 bound corner top

Beautiful, embellished binding, both front and back.

bound corner final

back of binding

A Few Free Baby Lock Serger Classes

I just discovered another nifty resource.  Baby Lock has instituted On Demand video classes and offers 6 free classes covering the Evolution, the Ovation, and some serger accessories, among other topics.  You can find these classes, and links to others, at http://sewathomeclasses.com/ondemand-classes/free-classes.  It appears that the classes will only remain on your account for 96 hours after you first start to watch them, so be sure you have the time to allow them to buffer fully and to watch them all the way through before you start.  They don’t appear to be very long, but the little bits I have watched already have had nice hints and good instructions. Since they are free, you’ve got nothing to lose if they are too basic for your skill level.  

CREATING PROTECTIVE LININGS

This is a wonderful post I know I am going to reference many times. Great info!

Bag'n-telle

quilted lining_incase
Credit: photo by Incase

Designing a protective bag collection needs to be produced with three things in mind – conveyance, organization and co-ordination. Begin with a super durable fashion fabric for the exterior so that the bag will take you through your travels and beyond. It should be spacious and the perfect size for urban commutes and easy air travel. Remember some airlines have weight and size restrictions for carry-on baggage. Leather, suede, vinyls, waxed canvas are ideal choices as they are rugged and durable.

For the inside of the bag, the interior layer should be a soft-textured, moisture-resistant bonded fabric for easy sliding and ensures good protection against water and dust. Waterproof fabric make it suitable for swimwear, sun creams and conventional shopping. While, a padded interior made with a soft-textured quilted lining fabric or reinforced middle padded layer will provide superior protection against impact and leakage. Typically…

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Original Sewing and Quilting Expo – Minnesota

I don’t know why I keep going to the Expo. It guess it is hopeful optimism. I attended one in Kansas City in 2004, one in Atlanta in 2011, and just this past weekend I attended in Minneapolis. My experience was the same each time, and my overall feeling has always been one of disappointment.

The exhibit hall is always great, to some degree or another. Lots of creativity, new notions and patterns, and show special buys. There are a few exhibit hall demos, but this expo most of those were the companies that had long arm machines for you to try and to see the computerized long arm programs at work. I bought some Marathon stabilizer, which is a brand I am acquainted with but have never tried, and now I can hardly wait to get home and try it out.

One of the things you can learn at the Expo and not many other places is how to use the Seam Allowance Method of pattern alteration. Lorraine Henry, the Sewing Hen, teaches terrific classes on how to modify and alter patterns based on your particular body variations. She is a fabulous teacher, incredibly patient and giving, and she knows her stuff! If you ever go to an expo and you sew clothing, Lorraine’s classes are a must take!

I said I was disappointed and that is because most of the classes I have paid for and attended at the various expos have been a waste of my time. Sometimes they have not lived up to the description, other times there was nothing new to learn, and other times the teaching was just lousy. I have had this experience more often than not. So terribly frustrating.

So, I want to let you know which teachers are worth seeing.
Lorraine Henry is definitely one.

I did not get a chance to take a Cynthia Guffey class this time, and I as sorry I couldn’t. She is a character with a strong personality, but I have learned so much from her. I love her classes, both hands-on and lecture.

Linda Lee of The Sewing Workshop has not taught at the expo for several years, but she is at several of them this year. I took two of her classes and they were both great, both lecture and hands-on. Her material is informative and her project is one I will make again and again at home. I also found her to be gracious and generous.

Finally, I loved Cindy Losecamp’s Fractured Landscape class at this expo. She was exhausted, yet she still taught this evening class with a friendly smile and oodles of patience. Her project was creative and well-designed.

So, if you are considering attending one of these expos, which take place around the country, be ready to see all kinds of tempting materials, machines, and notions in the exhibit hall, and choose your classes carefully. There are also free lectures on the “stage” and for your first expo going to these free sessions might be a good way to go for the most part while you figure out which classes are worth going to and which maybe not so much. If there is a class with a “famous” person, sign up for it early, since they do fill up.

I hope you enjoy your time if you attend. And yes, my optimism tells me I will probably go again and hope for a better experience. I love sewing (could you tell?) and want to learn as much as I can.

Quilt-as-you-go, Serger Quilt: tutorial Part 2: BORDERS

Last week we started a baby quilt by serger.  I hope some of you are sewing this along with me and will send me pictures of your completed project.

Part 1 ended here:

Fabric Preparation for Borders

Cut the following from Border 1 fabric AND from batting:

2 – 2 ½” x 30”*

2 – 2 ½” x 38”*

*Cut borders 2” longer than length needed.

Let’s put these borders on, shall we?

The reason I suggested you cut your borders 2″ longer than the length needed is to give you a little wiggle room at each end.  As we practice quilt-as-you-go by serger, I find that sometimes my fabric shifts at the beginning of my seam.  I have gotten to where this rarely happens any more, but this extra length will help alleviate that, if you find it happens to you.

CUT BACKING STRIPS:

I just realized I forgot to tell you to cut your backing strips as well, so now go ahead and cut 4 backing strips to match your border 1 and batting strips.  These backing strips might match the backing for the central square, but that is not necessary.  This is a perfect opportunity to have a pretty pieced backing.

The order of the borders, based on the measurements I gave above, is to serge the top and bottom borders first, followed by the side borders.

For serger quilt-as-you-go, you will layer your fabric from the table up as follows, with top raw edges matching:

Backing strip: RIGHT side UP   (green in picture)

Quilt sandwich: RIGHT side UP   (pieced in picture)

Border fabric: WRONG side UP    (orange in picture)

Batting: on top.

border arrangement

The raw edges are not aligned in this picture, but you want to align them.

Start your border strips about 1″ before the central square.  Pin all layers together carefully.

*Pinning Recommendation:  I use LONG quilting pins when I serge.  I will often pin parallel to the edge, which keeps my pins out of my knife, but if I pin perpendicular to  the edge I place my pins so they hang off the edge of the fabric about an inch.  That way they are both easy to see and easy to remove.  NEVER serge over a pin.  I have only had to replace my knife once in 12 years, and that was after serging over 1 pin.  That is all it takes.

**If  you find your fabric edges slip and slide around despite pinning, use glue in the seam allowances to hold them together.  I use glue stick or Elmer’s blue gel a lot, especially when serging.  If the glue does not dry fast enough, iron the two fabric layers together as you glue and it will dry quickly.

Serger Setting for SERGING SEAMS:

4 Thread Overlock
Stitch Width: Widest Setting
Stitch Length: 3 mm

Serge the long seam trimming off an even amount.

Flip the border pieces out from the center and press on both sides.  Press to flatten seam as much as possible, pulling on the fabric against the seam to be sure it was caught in the stitching everywhere.

flip borders out 1

flip borders out 2

Change serger stitch or cutting width to narrowest width and serge baste the long edge, without trimming, to hold the 3 layers (backing, batting, and border) together.  * As you serge, continue to smooth the fabric out from the seam to be sure the raw edges meet and all layers are caught in the basting.

Return stitch or cutting width back to widest setting.

Repeat for opposite border.

You can cut off the 1″ of border that hangs off each end with a rotary cutter to square up the center, or cut it off when serging the side borders.

Arrange the fabrics the same way as explained above for the side borders, serge, press, and baste outer edge.

BORDER 2

Cut border 2 fabric, batting, and backing strips as follows:

2 – 4″ x 32″

2 – 4″ x 42″

Repeat the same procedure with the first borders.  When you are finished your outer edge should be completely squared up, basted and ready for binding.  If your quilt needs additional squaring up, it is fine to trim away some of the serger basting.  If you trim away all of the stitching in an area, rebaste that section without trimming on the serger to hold the layers together.

BINDING Prep:

Coming up in the last installment of this series will be adding a straight grain binding with a faux serger piping.

1/2 yard binding fabric.

Cut 5 strips 2 1/2″ x WOF (Width of fabric).

Thread: at least 2 spools of 40 wt. polyester or rayon embroidery thread, or 1 spool of a 12 weight decorative thread like Sulky Blendables, Jean Stitch, or Pearl Crown Rayon.

Part 3 Binding here.

Until next time,

Sherilyn

Where have all the sewing machines gone?

We are moving with professional movers for most of our shipment this time.  One of our movers commented to me that up until about 10 years ago, he used to move a sewing machine in every shipment.  Now he rarely sees any at all.  I made up for a couple of shipments with mine, but I thought it was a sad observation.  I hope that DIY, Project Runway, and other such shows will inspire a new generation of home sewers.  I know that the number of quality fabric stores has declined dramatically in the last 10 years as well.  How many of us try to create unique, well-fitting clothing ourselves? We are becoming slaves to and dependent on the Walmart “Made in China” label and “No Sew” projects.

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but it does tell us how important it is that we continue to try to pass these skills on to the next generation.  We need to wrestle or entice our youth away from their socially networked computers and show them how to use a different computer – a sewing machine, which can be used for creativity as well as productivity.  Let us keep developing our own skills, and reaching out to others as well.

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