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


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.

Serger Zippered Pouch Tutorial

Have you ever considered putting in a zipper with your serger?  This is actually my favorite way to insert a zipper, and I know lots of ways to do so.  Although using a serger to insert a zipper has its limitations, when it’s appropriate to use this technique, it’s amazingly quick and easy to do.


imageI want to thank K&CSupplies for providing the zipper used in this tutorial.  This pouch uses a handbag zipper, as opposed to a clothing zipper, and you will note the larger, sturdier zipper pull. K&CSupplies blog has a terrific blog post comparing handbag zippers to clothing zippers and explaining the differences. It’s definitely worth a read if you like making pouches, totes, and bags.  This was also my first time ordering from K and C Supplies, and I have already placed a second order with them, I had such a great experience.  I had a great time looking at their supper zipper selection, plus their service was tremendous. They have reasonable shipping charges, even to Alaska, which means so much to me, and they shipped my order promptly.  Please check them out!

Now, on to our zippered bag…

1/3 yard (or fat quarter) main fabric
1/3 yard (or fat quarter) lining fabric 9″ x 11″ thin fusible fleece or lightweight interfacing
6″ of 3/4″ wide ribbon
16″ nylon zipper – must be at least 4″ longer than needed in project.
Glue (I use Scotch Permanent Glue Stick. It’s permanent on paper, but water soluble on fabric.)
Cording/Piping foot for serger


Comments on materials:
You may choose to fuse a fusible fleece or a lightweight interfacing to give the main fabric more body. Be careful. Heavy or craft interfacing and many fusible fleeces will make the project too bulky with too many layers. I recommend using a lightweight interfacing on the back of a lightweight cotton fabric or use a more stable fabric, such as a suedecloth or heavier quilting cotton fabric with no interfacing. Another choice would be to use a firmer fabric for the lining and a lightweight to mediumweight cotton fabric for the outer main fabric.  If you use fusible fleece, cut it 1″ smaller in each direction and center it on the fabric to keep bulk out of the seam allowances.


I will give instructions for making zipper pull tabs from fabric, but if you use fusible fleece on your outer bag, do not use fabric tabs. Use ribbon to make the tabs to reduce bulk. Ribbon tabs are appropriate to pair with any fabric choices.

Cutting and Preparing:
Cut one piece each of your main fabric and of your lining fabric 10″ x 12″. Other dimensions are also possible.

If making fabric tabs, cut a strip of lining fabric 4″ x 10″

If using interfacing, fuse the interfacing to the back of the main fabric.

I used a directional fabric, so I cut two main fabric pieces 6.25″ x10″ and serged a lengthwise seam between these two pieces of fabric to make one 10″ x 12″ piece with the UP direction of the pieces facing away from each other. This way both sides of my bag would be facing the correct direction when the bag was finished. This is a good strategy for any fabrics with a definite direction or nap where you want the design to run parallel to the zipper.


For the fabric tabs:
Press the strip in half lengthwise. Open, then press each lengthwise edge of the strip to the center fold. Press the first fold again, making a strip 1″ wide.



Use a sewing machine to topstitch close to each long edge of this strip.


This could also be modified for serger. Cut the strip 2″ x 10″. Press the strip in half lengthwise. Place decorative threads in the serger loopers and serge a balanced narrow 3 thread overlock stitch down each long edge just skimming the edge with the knife, only trimming off stray threads.

Cut two 4″ lengths of the strip and fold these two pieces in half to form 2″ loops. Use glue stick in the seam allowance at the raw edges to hold the ends together for the loops. Pin or clip to hold and let dry. (Sorry, but I did this while visiting family and did not have glue with me, so I have no pictures of this step.)


Serger set-up:

4 thread overlock

Cutting width or stitch width:  widest setting

Stitch length: 2.5-3

Foot:  Cording or piping foot


1) Sandwich the zipper between the main fabric and the lining as follows.

Lay the main fabric right side up on the table.

Place the zipper face down along the 10″ edge of the fabric, aligning raw edge of fabric with edge of the zipper tape.  VERY IMPORTANT:  Center the zipper so that about 2 inches or more hangs off each end.

Lay the lining fabric right side down, with the 10″ raw edge of the fabric aligned with the zipper tape edge.

Place a pin parallel to the edge of the fabric to hold the layers together.  This is just to hold things long enough to get them under the serger foot.  It should not be necessary to pin the whole seam.

NOTE:  If you are right handed, place the zipper pull to the left.  If you are left handed, place the zipper pull to the right.

2) Open the zipper and move the loose edge out of the way.

3) Place the sandwiched edge under the cording foot, placing the zipper coil in the groove of the presser foot.  Make sure the zipper pull is behind the foot and the leading edge of the fabric is in front of the foot or just under the front edge of the foot.


NOTE:  When putting in a zipper by serger you want a zipper that is at least 4 inches longer than your seam. You want to avoid having any of the metal zipper parts coming in contact with the knife or needles, so you need to keep them outside of the area to be serged. This also means you must use a nylon coil zipper. Do NOT use either a metal zipper or a zipper with “teeth.”

NOTE:  It is best to serge in a zipper with the zipper coils facing upwards, but since my top fabric had fused fleece, I serged with the lining side up.  Ideally you want a thin fabric on top of the zipper, with the coils facing up so the groove of the presser foot can easily ride along the coils, guiding the seam straight and true.  If your outer fabric is one layer, serge with the lining on the bottom and the outer fabric on top with the coils in the groove of the foot.  You will find this will go more smoothly than the other way around.

Serge the edge, running the groove of the foot along the coil of the zipper.

When you get to the end of the fabric, push the tail of the zipper out of the way to the left.


4) Close the zipper.

You may wish to topstitch the new seam to keep the fabric out of the zipper coils.  Pull the outer fabric and lining away from the zipper and topstitch on the outside about 1/8″ from the seam.


5) Lay the serged piece right side up on the table.  Pick up the raw edge of the main outer fabric opposite the zipper and pull it up to align the raw edge with the unserged edge of the zipper tape, aligning both side edges at the same time.  Put a pin in the raw edge to hold the layers together.


Turn the whole piece over.

Repeat the same procedure with the lining fabric, aligning the raw edge of the lining with the unserged edge to the zipper tape, sandwiching it between the lining and outer fabrics.  Use the pin to hold the three (3) layers together.


6) Open the zipper.  Place the layers in the serger with the zipper coil in the groove of the presser foot as before.  Serge the seam.


7) Turn the piece wrong side out.  Close the zipper part way so that the zipper pull is in the middle of the rectangle and middle of the fabric.


8) Flatten the rectangle so the zipper is along one long side.  Mark the opposite side with a small snip or pin.

9)  Flatten the rectangle the opposite way so that the zipper matches with the mark opposite it.  If you want, you can use a traditional sewing machine to zig zag over the open end of the zipper to hold the coils together at the seam line.

10) Place the fabric or ribbon loops between the zipper and the mark with the loop to the inside and the raw edges aligned with the fabric raw edges.  A spot of glue stick can help here to hold these in place.  Serge across both open ends of the rectangle.


NOTE:  You can cut the excess zipper off each end ahead, but you do not have to do so.  Your serger knife can cut through it as long as it is a lightweight nylon coil zipper.  BE SURE YOUR ZIPPER PULL IS IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR PROJECT, AND YOU ARE NOT CUTTTING IT OFF THE END!

NOTE: This is where bulk can be a problem.  As you approach the zipper serge slowly if you have extra bulk.  You may need to hand walk your serger through this area.  Hold the zipper coils together at the open end.   (You will see that my bulk pushed my fabric loop out of the way, since it wasn’t glued in place. I chose not to rip the seam out to reposition it, but I learned a lesson from that about keeping the layers thinner because this seam has so many layers in it.)

11) Box your corners:

Flatten each corner into a triangle so that the seam lies in the middle.  Serge across the triangle 1″ from the apex.  Finish off your serger thread ends.


12)  Turn your pouch right side out and admire!


I would love to see pictures of your finished projects, so please send them to me at and I will post them here and on my Facebook page.

Sewing and crafting classes online

Have you heard about Craftsy? If not, be sure to read on. If you have, I hope you’ve had a chance to take one of their wonderful, reasonably priced courses, especially since once you buy a course, you can watch the videos as many times as you want over any time frame. Learn in the comfort of your own home at your own speed. Not only that, but they have free classes you can download to try before you buy.  They also have apps for your tablets and handheld devices so you can learn anywhere.

My favorite way to watch video courses is to watch them all the way through first, then go to my sewing machine and try things out, referencing the video along the way. You may have a different style, which is why these courses are so wonderful; they fit everyone’s learning style in some fashion.

The downside to independent learning, of course, is the lack of social interaction, either with your fellow classmates or with a teacher from whom you would like feedback on that seam you just sewed. Craftsy and YouTube and other sites like this will never completely replace the classes offered by qualified teachers at your local dealerships and sewing machine shops, but they sure expand the range of who can learn and when, making them a fabulous resource!

Go ahead, jump in! The water’s fine! Sewing, cake decorating, knitting, and on and on and on…

Here is what Craftsy has to say about itself:

What is Craftsy?
Craftsy is a worldwide craft community offering online classes. It also has a patterns marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns; a supplies shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits; and a projects section where members share pictures of their latest craft successes. With over two million members and counting, Craftsy has something for just about everyone, in categories ranging from quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.

Why should I take a class online?
Online education isn’t just for schools and universities anymore. Craftsy courses provide you the convenience of a world-class instructor in your home, whenever you want to learn. Online education, no matter what subject, is a great alternative to in-person classes for a number of reasons.

With many online learning opportunities being on-demand, you are able to learn at your own pace, anytime. Online learning is a fantastic alternative to in-store craft classes for people with busy schedules or who have difficulty leaving the house. It also allows you to watch a troubling section over-and-over again, so you can see exactly how a technique is carried out, or refer back to your class for relevant concepts before beginning any new projects.

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.


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.


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.


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,


Quilt-as-you-go, Serger Quilt: tutorial

My recent poll regarding which type of project I should design was inconclusive.  As I was straightening up an area of my sewing room, I found a lone charm pack, which immediately told me it wanted to be a serger baby quilt.  Perfect timing!  These instructions will be in three (3) sections:

  1. Fabric requirements and Central Block
  2. Borders and Serger Quilt As You Go
  3. Serger Piped Binding

This is a small, simple quilt, but all the techniques are the same on a larger quilt.

Let’s roll…

Quilt ‘n’ Serge Baby Quilt


Fabric Requirements and Central Block

Fabric Requirements:

1 Charm Pack – minimum 42 – 5” squares

1/3 yard 44” fabric for border 1

2/3 yard 44” fabric for border 2

2 yards 44” fabric for backing*

1 crib sized batting**

½ yard 44” fabric for straight grain binding

Other useful tools:

Rotary cutter, rotary ruler, rotary mat, Kwik Klip, quilter’s safety pins, ditch stitching foot for sewing machine,  decorative threads for serger, temporary glue stick, fusible thread

* Backing can be pieced using 1 yard, 1/3 yard, and 2/3 yard pieces for the three (3) different sections.  This makes a more interesting back and helps use up scraps.

**A thin cotton batting or cotton blend batting is the easiest to use for the serger quilt-as-you-go technique.  Thicker battings will be easier to use after you gain experience with the technique.

Note:  For this quilt, consistent seam allowances are more important than getting an exact ¼”, making it an excellent first serger quilt project.  Pay attention to when to run the fabric edge along the inside of the knife, not trimming off any fabric, and when to trim an even amount of fabric.  One of the joys of using a serger is how easy it is to have accurate seam intersections.


Tip: Practice running the fabric along the inside edge of the knife without locking the knife out of the way.  The knife is the guide for the fabric edge, so if you lock it out of the way, there is no longer an identifiable mark to place the fabric edge.

Central Block

Serger Setting for SERGING SEAMS:

4 Thread Overlock
Stitch Width: Widest Setting
Stitch Length: 2.5 – 3 mm

1)     Lay out 5” charm blocks in a pleasing arrangement of 7 rows with 6 blocks in each row.

2)     Serge blocks together in each row, first serging two (2) neighboring squares together and then serging the pairs together to complete the row.  Run fabric along inside of knife; do not trim edge.

3)     Press all seams flat to set stitches.

4)     Press the seams in neighboring rows in opposite directions.


5)    Serge the rows together, locking the seam intersections together with the seam allowances going in opposite directions.


6)     Press all seams flat  to set stitches.  Then press all seams in same direction.

7)     Measure the central block, which should be approximately 32” x 28”.  Cut 1 piece batting and 1 piece backing 2” larger in each dimension, i.e. 34” x 30”.

8)     Lay the backing fabric WRONG SIDE up on the table, Cover with the batting.  Lay the central block RIGHT SIDE up, centered over the batting.  Pin baste.

I used quilters safety pins and the Kwik Klip tool to make this process relatively quick and painless.

Image       Image


9)     Use a stitch-in-the-ditch foot on the sewing machine to stitch in the ditch of each seam in the central block.

Image     Image


NOTE:  It is possible to use chain stitching or cover stitching here to quilt the central block, if that is preferred.

Serger Setting for BASTING:

4 thread overlock
Stitch width:  narrowest setting
Stitch length: 4 mm

10)     Baste outer edge of central block to prepare for adding borders.  Mostly this should be running the fabric along the inside of the knife.  Knife may be used to trim some unevenness, but if there seems to be significant unevenness, check and square up with a rotary ruler and cutter first.

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.

Next time we will serge the borders on, so stay tuned.

Part 2 Borders here.  Part 3 Binding here.

Until then,


Decorative Quilt Binding

I had planned to bind my husband’s flannel lap quilt in a traditional manner – sew the French double fold binding along the edge of the quilt sandwich, matching raw edges, then hand sew to the back of the quilt – when I ran into some difficulties.

The quilt was pieced with lovely high qualify flannel and a low-loft polyester batting.  It was all fluffy and soft, which makes for a nice quilt, but not for a nice binding experience, I discovered.  As I tried to wrap my binding around the quilt edge, I found myself tugging and pushing on the binding to make it completely cover the edge.  The three quilt layers were so fluffy that they were puffing up around the edge, making wrapping the binding difficult.



I am always looking for ways to use the decorative stitches on my machine, so I chose to flatten the edges by stitching the binding to the edges with a decorative stitch first.  I considered stitching only the quilt sandwich seam allowance, under the binding, with a triple zig zag, and this would be a good choice for solving this problem if I really didn’t want any stitches showing on top.  Instead, I chose to practice my feather stitching on the top of the binding, stitching it all the way around the edge with the binding flattened out.  I aligned the left hand edge of the stitch with the ditch of the binding to keep the whole stitch on the top of the quilt.

Image     Image

This flattened my seam allowances down and I was able to finish my binding. Although I usually hand sew binding, I wanted to get this one done, so I machine stitched it in the ditch from the front.  It worked beautifully after I flattened the fluff.


Try this out.  Think of all the decorative stitches you can try out!

Additionally, I learned something very important about quilting with flannel.  I knew flannel stretched more than other cottons, but I didn’t realize how much that affected my quilt until I was finished.  I confess my edges came out a little wavy.  Next time I quilt with flannel I will stay stitch the edges before sewing the binding on. 

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