The Seam Ripper – a sewing essential

In my previous post I listed what I consider to be essentials to the beginning sewist.

The next day while I was at work I realized that I had missed a very essential item…a seam ripper.

You can buy a seam ripper for less than $2.00, but my favorite is this one from Clover.

Can you see the difference between the two seam rippers? The Clover seam ripper has a finer head (I don’t know if there is a technical term for that part that goes into the seam) which makes it easier to get between your fabrics. There’s a blade at the bottom of the U shape and the blade on the Clover is nice and sharp. And trust me, the blade does dull over time.

When I started sewing I didn’t really like unpicking seams. Now I’ve come to accept that its just part of the art of sewing. After more than 20 years of sewing I still use it almost every time I sit down to sew.


Learn to Sew – assembling your sewing kit

A few things I think are sewing essentials for every sewing kit and some tips for saving money building your kit.

Sewing essentials

  • Sewing machine
    • There are many affordable sewing machine options. I recommend buying your first machine from a local dealer as they will be able to support your machine and offer you assistance if you have any issues. If you buy an inexpensive machine from a store like Wal-Mart or Costco you will not be able to take it in if you experience any problems. A typical machine tune up costs $90 so you can easily eat up your savings with a tension issue or two.
  • Sewing scissors
    • I recommend you get a pair of scissors dedicated for use with sewing. You can buy a good quality pair of scissors for under $15 (example). Most sewing enthusiasts buy a high quality metal pair of scissors for about $25 (example) but that is not necessary.
    • A small pair of scissors or thread trimmers is nice to have, but also unnecessary.
  • Pins
    • Pins with a ball-head are my favorite. Glass-headed pins work great because they won’t melt if they get close to the iron. A pin with a finer shaft will go through fabric more easily, but finer pins also bend more easily. You can buy a small box of pins for less than $5.
  • Pincushion
    • You will need a place to keep your pins. The box the pins came it will work, but isn’t the most convenient. A fabric or magnetic pincushion will work best. You can even make your own pincushion with a scrap of fabric and some stuffing. Magnetic pincushions are $10-15. This particular pin cushion travels well because it comes with a cover.
  • Hand-sewing needle
    • Many projects require a minimal amount of hand sewing. Thinner needles are harder to thread, but usually slide through fabrics more easily.
  • Tape measure
    • A flexible tape measure is essential for taking body measurements and measuring your fabric. I prefer the non-retractable version.
  • A seam ripper
Shopping for supplies
I do not recommend that you buy a prepackaged kit. All of the stuff in those kits is cheap and not worth the $14.99 you’ll pay for the kit.
If you shop at a chain craft store like JoAnn, Hancock, Hobby Lobby, or Michaels my #1 recommendation is never pay sticker price for anything. These stores always have items on sale and coupons to cover your full price items. In general, I never pay full price for anything that costs more than $5.00 at a chain store.
The JoAnn’s in my area has very generous coupon policies. I use the print coupons, iPhone coupons, and competitor coupons all in the same transaction. Sometimes I will have 4-6 40% off coupons and they don’t even bat an eye. The Hancock in my area will only allow me to use one store coupon and one competitor coupon, so I just keep this in mind while I do my shopping.
Disclaimer: the links on this page are for illustrative purposes only. I have not personally used each item. This post is not an endorsement of any brand or store.

My Thoughts on the Colette Macaron

I started my Colette Macaron last weekend.

The pattern photo is one of my least favorite versions.

It looks like a strapless dress with a t-shirt underneath it.
Unfortunately, in Utah some people think that it is appropriate to wear a t-shirt under a strapless dress so maybe this hit a little too close to home for me.
But then I saw so many super cute versions, like this one.

What a gorgeous use of plaid fabric.

What I’ve found to be the biggest issue with this pattern is the excess fabric in the middle back area. This problem seems to be common for many. I made the alteration by taking 3/8″ off the center back like so…

This took care of most of the issue, but with my final garment I ended up also letting out the back darts by 1/4″ to even out the ease from the upper back to the waist.

Is it improper etiquette to point out others fitting issues in your blog posts? I’m not really sure, so I guess I’ll abstain from pointing out that I’m not the only one that came across this issue.

The other thing I’m not so in love with is how the pockets look on the finished garment.

I did not put pockets in my fitting muslin, so I did not notice how the little “tuck” below the pocket looks on my body. It breaks up the pleat and adds attention to the hip area that I’d rather not have. But since the pocket is in and the fabric is cut I am going to try decreasing the seam allowance from 5/8″ to 1/4″ and see if that helps to smooth things out a little bit.

I don’t have much energy for sewing this week as I’ve just started a big project at work, but hopefully next week I’ll have some finished photos to show.

On a side note, we have made some progress on the basement. Pretty soon my sewing space will be hooked into the HVAC system.


Sewaholic Alma vs Colette Laurel

I have broken out of my habit for not paying more than $2 for a sewing pattern. Some of these indie patterns have just what I need – basic wardrobe builders with plenty of options for customization.

The two patterns I’ve used most recently are somewhat similar.

Colette Laurel

And Sewaholic Alma view B sans collar

The Alma blouse has a little more of a fitted shape, but the sleeve length and fit is similar. I managed to make the Alma blouse without a zipper and it looks great.

I’ve found that the shoulder slope on both (Laurel and Sorbetto) of the Colette patterns that I’ve tried is much too steep. My first Sorbetto top had such a gaping neckline. I tried a bunch of alterations to fix the gaping neck from curving the back “seam” to tucks in the back neckline before I read a recommendation that the shoulder slope may be the spot to focus on. Since then I’ve made 3 or 4 Sorbetto tops. What a great “instant gratification” project. I may make another this week!

The other thing I’ve discovered about the Colette patterns that I’ve tried is that the bust dart is too close to the bust point. Peggy Sagers recommends that the point of the dart be at least 1″ outside the bust point and I agree. No one wants attention drawn to that particular feature. So I shorten the dart by 1″ without changing anything else and it goes together great.


McCall’s 6503

I wasn’t sure about this dress until I saw some of the photos posted by other home sewers in the blogosphere. The pattern reviews were mixed, but I decided to give it a shot. I used a lightweight denim chambray and made view B. It fit me quite well right out of the envelope. I found that the weight of the chambray made the gathers under the bust a little funny so I made two darts instead to match up with the pleats on the skirt. It turned out just right.

I wish I had lined the skirt with something nice and slippery. It catches and bunches when I try and wear it with tights. I guess my next project should be a new half slip.


Vogue 8651

I made this top months ago. I used a grey and white striped tissue knit. I think that cutting it out took just as long as anything simply because I was certain to match the stripes perfectly. It was worth the effort.

I’ve been trying to get away from the basic T-shirt and this one has a really cute hem so I gave it a try. It goes together just as easily as a T-shirt but has that cute little extra detail. I’m not sure it’s as flattering on my more curvy body as it is on the stick figure model, but it’s still a cute piece. I definitely think I’ll be making it again.


McCall’s 6512

I picked 5 patterns to blog about tonight and 3 of them happen to be McCall’s. They’ve got some cute stuff out right now. I especially love the Palmer/Pletsch and Melissa Watson patterns. They’ve got better instructions and fitting tips than most of the commercial patterns.

I’ve been trying to make some tops and blouses that I can wear to work. I’m generally a t-shirt and knits kind of girl and that can be hard to dress up sometimes.

This top was a little different than what I usually am drawn to.

I generally like set sleeves, not raglan or other variations of the raglan. This sleeve is unique and I’m not sure about it yet.

I used a cotton voile for this pattern. It’s such a lovely fabric. It’s fairly soft, but I think that for this pattern a more drapey fabric would be most appropriate. The fabric I used has a bit of crispness to it and it doesn’t lay quite the way I think it should for this design.

I’ve been having trouble with buttonholes lately. So I decided to try the snapsetter from Snap Source for this project. Wow! I love that little tool. I used snaps before just to avoid the buttonholes and now I’m going to use snaps all the time. They go in so slick!


A sewing marathon, catching up

Ever since the weather warmed up I’ve been sewing. A lot.

My craft room doesn’t have any heating right now. That will be remedied when the remodel is complete, but for now I spend time down there only when the temperature is fairly comfortable.

I need to be better about posting photos of myself in my me-made clothing, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. For now I’m just catching up on the backlog of what I’ve made.

My most recent garment was a basic skirt. I used McCall’s 6757 and made it in a tan twill with narrow white stripes.

What appealed most to me about this pattern was the welt pockets. I just made my first welt pockets this summer with the help of Sunni. How lucky am I that she teaches sewing classes at a local fabric shop.
According to my measurements I was a size 14 in the waist (28″) and size 16 in the hips (40″). So I tapered the pattern from the waist to the fullest part of the hips accordingly.

When I got the side seams stitched together it was quite obvious that I did not need to taper the pattern at all. The hips were huge! But it’s always better to have too much fabric than not enough. So I took the sides in and made it a straight size 14.

The only other problem with the pattern was attaching the pocket facings to the welt. They had you match up the side seams for the pocket facing rather than matching up the stitching lines and sewing it with the pocket backwards from what it should be after it’s turned. I ended up cutting a whole new front piece because I had plenty of fabric and I didn’t want to try and re-sew a welt pocket. Yuck! I should have taken photos to show how it’s supposed to go because my explanation doesn’t make any sense.

I made the skirt 1.25″ longer and it hits me at the middle of my knee cap. I also added a polyester cling-free lining because the cotton was pretty cling-y. I wore the skirt yesterday to church. It’s a great basic. I find that I don’t make enough basic wardrobe builders.


DIY Christmas: Chevron Stocking, part 1

I was inspired by the adorable chevron stocking in this photo:

I saw a few different renditions on Pinterest, but they were all made with triangles. Triangles are more work and I like to keep it simple. I also saw this tutorial on Pinterest and voila.

The Hot Italian helped me pick out the fabrics. Isn’t that cute? He want to make sure that the prints were “Christmas-y” enough.

After piecing everything together I used this pattern to cut out the stocking shape. It’s the same pattern that I used to make A&E’s stockings last year.

I machine quilted the chevrons with craft fleece to add a little “puffiness.” I’ll have to post pictures of the final product as soon as it’s done.