Day #4 – Craftsy Continuing Ed

On the fourth day of my sewing challenge, I took advantage of the free video workshops offered by Craftsy in honor of Labor Day. I previewed the class offerings on the night before and then opened my Chromebook with a plan of attack early Monday morning.img_3485

I learned to knit in the Portuguese style with Andrea Wong. It never hurts to have a new knitting style in my repertoire considering my arthritis gets more painful every day.  I learned from the video workshop that Portuguese knitting requires the least amount of physical movement making it very appropriate for arthritic knitters. The little need for hand and arm movement enables the fastest knitting speeds available. Who knew?

I learned advanced alterations with Alison Wolf. (I’ve already purchased and studied her beginning course.) She is an excellent teacher. I would love an in-person workshop with her.  Attention clients: I learned how to fix a jeans zipper so if I can find some jeans zippers locally, bring on your favorite damaged jeans!

For the afternoon, I settled in my recliner to learn all I could about zipper bags from Joan Hawley. Sewing bags is a subject I’m familiar with but it never hurts to learn a little more.  Ms. Hawley’s manner of teaching is so calm and reassuring that I’m pretty sure she could walk me through performing brain surgery without either of us becoming nervous. Her Sweetpea Pods have always intrigued me and this workshop guided my through step-by-step construction of Pods as well as another interesting zipper bag. I jotted down notes and quickly made my own pair of Pea Pods by bedtime.

This I learned:  I am never too old to learn something new.

Removing Pearl Snaps to Upcycle a Man’s Western Shirt

IIMG_0977 am a sucker for western shirts. The farm-raised country girl in me loves the sight of a top-stitched yoke on both the front and back of a shirt…….(because everybody knows that shirts with yokes on only the front or back are wanna be’s… slickers.)

The glint of pearl snaps makes me go weak in the knees. One browse through my favorite Etsy store, CowgirlSnaps, can inspire me to design western shirts for hours. I am experienced at creating and sewing western shirts. If my ample female chest would adapt more readily to the typically male cut of a cowboy shirt, I would have a closet full of yoked, pearl-snapped beauties.

When a client came to me asking if I could replace the snaps on a shirt with buttons, I was able to hide my reaction and agreed to attempt the project. She explained the shirt had been her grandfather’s. Her grandfather had recently passed away and she had claimed his shirt to wear herself. She felt the snaps made it look too masculine for her.

I am sure anyone watching me while we spoke would have seen me flex my thumbs as I remembered all the times I have mashed my thumbs while applying snaps to my home sewn shirts. I have extensive experience in applying snaps. “Surely”, I mused, “the snaps will come off the same way they went on.” I felt my thumbs twitch, anticipating the pain sure to accompany the project.

I agreed to try the client’s request. Here is what I learned:

 Proper tools are essential – All snap kits come with a snap setting tool. This tool is NO help IMG_1005in snap removal. Apply a snap in the wrong spot and one is pretty much screwed. Lacking any better idea, I choose my favorite all-purpose multi-tool, a treasured gift from my husband. I find that when you put items found in hardware stores on your Wish List, husbands are more likely to give you a gift at gift-giving occasions.

The stud portion of the snap was backed with an open prong ring. I grabbed a portion of the ring with the pliers on the tool and gently but firmly peeled the ring from the fabric. Once the entire prong ring has been pulled free, the stud should fall away from the fabric.

IMG_0978The socket portion is more difficult to remove. I used the pliers to grip the snap’s socket and tried to bend the pearl snap and fabric away from the socket. With a little bit of patience and a lot of hand strength the two parts of the snap can be separated. Once separated, the pearl snap prongs will still be embedded in the fabric. The pliers easily straightened the five prongs allowing them to slip back through the fabric in the same manner that they went in. Caution here, as some of the prongs will break off, leaving small bits of metal in the fabric, falling into the folds of clothing and carpets.

The amount of wear on the shirt and the number of launderings will determine if the presence of the snap will be noticeable after it is removed. – Good quality fabric will not fade very much and most of the time, there should be no holes under the snaps. A slightly shiny look may remain on the fabric beneath the snap but that can be covered with buttonhole or button placement.

I proceeded from here with sewing standard buttonholes in place of the removed pearl studs. (Remember which side of the shirt front or sleeve cuff that laps over. Buttons can be stitched on the shirt in the exact location of the pearl sockets, aligned with the buttonholes.

So feel free to raid male family members’ closets and cruise yard sales and consignment shops. Men’s western shirts can be feminized, snaps can be removed and replace with buttons……or hey, maybe even replace with different snaps…something with some bling, yeah, now there ‘s an idea!

Capes Are For More Than Superheros

So a woman contacted me and asked if I could do capes.  I had just completed 140 felt superhero capes for our church vacation bible school.  Their theme was Jesus is My Superhero and the director wanted all of the students to have a cape for the program.  Four bolts of pink and blue felt later, we had a program of over 100 kids in capes.

I thought maybe she saw my handiwork and was interested in getting something made.  I was intrigued by a grown adult wanting a superhero cape.  On further questioning, I find that she wants a cape for her evening gown.  Wow, that would be a bold statement!  But, not to judge, I was all for the creative challenge.

I work in an environment where most of the employees spend a great deal of time in graphic novels. As a result of that, many discussions contain superheroes.  There are often arguments over who is the true superhero, Batman or Ironman.  I was not too surprised at this request. I have made capes before.  I once attempted a superhero cape for a 12-foot tall inflatable man, but that is a story for another blog post. I know, it is not something most sewist have on their resume.  I was a little curious so I asked her to send me some pictures from the internet.  “Show me what you have in mind”, I told her.  (What did we ever do before the internet? Whatever you can dream up, there is an image out there somewhere for something almost identical.)

Three images, 4 yards of black organza and one fitting later, I have truly crafted her two capes to wear with her evening gown.




I Got Published

IMG_0159The momma of the beautiful little girl is  a dear friend and she shared with me the struggles that she has finding cute boutique clothing for her daughter.  It is a struggle that I know all too well.

For me, the challenge had been issued and I knew I had the skills to tackle it.  I designed this cute little tunic for her out of fabric that she requested.  There are no patterns, no tutorials for this type sewing.  There is a wealth of resources for anyone sewing for a plus-size adult.  As her smile shows, I think she was very pleased with her new top.  I made a couple more garments for her but throughout the process I noticed the complete lack of resources for anyone sewing or shopping for healthy little girls.

My exposure to the academic world through my day job led me to believe that perhaps I needed to write about the struggle for this age group and perhaps write some patterns and tutorials, perhaps even a book.  My answer came quickly.  I submitted an article concerning the struggle for this age group to the a web community that I am a member of, the Curvy Sewing Collective.  One of the editors responded that they were interested in my article and encouraged me to continue on.  My blog post appears to be well-received, causing many to comment.  I think it is a success!

Now, see?  I’m more than a pants hemmer. (see previous post)

Hemming – Oh the Horror!

IMG_2762Clearly, I am missing something.  Would someone please explain it to me?  When did hemming pants and sewing on buttons become such a curse?

I see lots of Facebook and Instagram posts and graphics stating how much sewists are offended by hemming pants and sewing for their friends. There are t-shirts that say “Yes, I sew. No, I won’t hem your pants.”  I don’t feel that way and I guess I don’t understand why others do.

Yes, I sew. I quilt, I knit, I crochet, I bead, I cross-stitch and anything else I can find to do with my hands that is a creative outlet.  And I will hem your pants.  I will sew buttons on for you.  I will take up your dresses and repair little holes and tears.  There have been dark times in my life that the hemming and sewing paid for the groceries. I’m not too proud to know that I could possibly need it to pay for them and more in the future.

My friends know I sew. They respect me for my sewing knowledge and my skills. When they have a wardrobe malfunction or a garment for a special event, they entrust it to me.  I see so many sewist who sew for themselves because they want well-fitting quality garments.  They complain about the ready-to-wear industry.  What better opportunity to teach someone about proper fit and design than hemming their pants to an appropriate length?

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.

Hemming Jeans–the Rest of the Story

Untitled designPinterest is covered up with posts about hemming jeans and preserving the original hem on the pant legs.  I’ve seen it over and over again.  But here is what they don’t tell you.

Stitch the hem, they say.  Iron the new hem, they say. It’s easy, they say. And, I guess it is easy. But, I feel like someone needs to be Paul Harvey here and tell the “rest of the story”.

The newly hemmed jeans will need to be washed at some point.  I know there are many opinions on washing jeans but that is for another post.  The denim will do what denim is known for doing and that is unravel.  Many consumers pay great prices for jeans with unraveled holes and tears in the denim. Unfortunately, unraveling from the inside of the hem is not considered a good thing.  This pair unraveled despite the fact that I pinked the raw edges.  The fabric of leg unraveled up into the stitching and produced a hole in the hem.

My only solution was to restitch the new hem, trying to catch as much solid fabric as I can.  I started to doubt myself and jumped on Pinterest and looked at the original instructions on this method of hemming jeans.  And, yes, I recalled it accurately.  At this point, they recommend ironing the hem flat and going on with your life.  This time I decided to press the hem flat and add a line of stitching in the ditch of the new hem all the way around the leg.  I used a dark thread so that no one would see it, but I feel that little extra line of stitches will reinforce the raw edges on the interior and help keep the hem from rolling up.

We will see how this works.  These particular jeans are the dear daughter’s and I’m sure she will alert me at the first sign of any imperfection.

Do have any experience with this new method to hem jeans?  Is is working for you? What did I miss?

Storm-Grey Kimono Re-boot

pacifickimonoIt came to me in a dream the other night!  I figured out how to fix the Storm-grey kimono and save it from being a total loss.  The ties were not lined up.  Oh, two ties were lined up and and the other two ties were lined up but it becomes painfully obvious that all four ties need to line up together.  I didn’t think I could ever move the one pair, but then it came to me that I could lengthen the collar band with some leftover scraps and re-attach the ties there.  It worked and now the kimono looks like a true Frankenstein with all of the ripped out stitches and re-stitching.  I’m hoping it will work as a backup garment. Time and a fitting session with the client will tell.

The client approved of another piece of fabric that I purchased with the kimono in mind.  It is an amazing batik that reminds me of ocean waves, both blue as water and sky should be and grey with detail and “grunge” that goes along with ocean water.  I opted to reproduce the treasured original garment rather than struggle with the ties and neck fit of the traditional one.  I laid the treasured kimono down on the ocean batik and traced the garment pieces using a white chalk marker and a bar of soap.  I added seam allowances as I went.  Being able to reproduce a favorite RTW garment is an acquired talent.  I have finally mastered it, I think.  Time, and fitting, will tell in that situation as well.

pacifickimono2Introducing, the Ocean-blue kimono.

Altering a Purse Strap

Altering a Purse StrapIt is 4th of July week and I felt the need for a new purse.  I found a pretty snazzy, all-American one but it had a short faux leather strap.  I can never find purses with ample straps for my ample body.  Then it hit me.  I can sew!

As a quilter I have a stash of leftover quilt binding from previous quilts.  I dug through that bin and found this red fabric with blue and white stars.  Perfect.  The existing strap on the purse was narrow and matched the width of the binding perfectly.

  1. Using a seam ripper, remove the existing strap from the hardware, leaving the existing hardware in tact.
  2. Open up the folded quilt binding strip.  Mine was 1 7/8″ wide when folded.
  3. Fold the unfinished fabric edges of the strip in to the middle fold and finger press.
  4. Topstitch with a machine along the long edge of both sides of the strip.
  5. Thread the ends of the finished strip through the purse hardware and adjust the new strap to the perfect length.
  6. Tuck the unfinished ends in on themselves and loop around the existing hardware.
  7. Stitch the ends in place using a sewing machine.  Stitch back and forth several times for added security.

Voila! New purse with custom strap that always fits.


Generation We and Working With Their Hands

While scanning my Twitter feed, I ran across this article re-tweeted by HootSuite concerning Millennials and the social media skills they lack. I had not heard the Millennials referred to as Generation We or Generation Me but I find that it is an accurate description. Those born between 1980 and 2000 have:

predispositions of Generation Me – idealism, entitlement, a need for instant gratification, and recognition

I find that many have no desire or need to work with their hands.  I wonder if that is a result of needing instant gratification. I’m sure there is no large media splash of recognition for having completed a hand-knit scarf or sewing an adorable baby bib or quilting a lap-quilt.  In addition to social media skills, my informal research has found that they do not know how to thread a needle, replace a button, or hem their pants.

I have stumbled upon several of this generation who have discovered they lack these skills and are interested in acquiring them.  I was a tad surprised, thinking this generation born of YouTube would simply Google anything they wanted to learn and be fine.  But they don’t want to do that.  They want a real, live person to instruct them, be in the room with them and lead them from beginning to end in a project.  The sad thing is there are not many of my generation (late Baby-Boomers) who learned the skills themselves and all home economics programs were eliminated in public schools long ago.

Thus, I am in the middle of planning a (Very) Basic Alterations class that is not my true definition of an alterations class.  This class is a combination of beginning sewing-threading a needle, tying a knot, sewing on a button; hemming-shortening or lengthening pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, tops; and shopping for the correct size clothing online.


Should be interesting.  Maybe they will come.

My First Seam Gauge (After 40+ Years)

gaugeI must be the McGyver of sewing. I’ve learned to take whatever is available and adapt it to my needs at that moment. Lack of resources, both financially and geographically, have always dictated that I work with whatever is on hand. This is a skill that is lost on the younger generations of today, by the way. Therefore, I do not always use the proper tool. I make do.  This weekend, I made the decision to buy myself the proper tool for sewing and alterations: the seam gauge. Wow, what a splurge!  The ultimate decadence–to drive to the sewing notion store and shamelessly purchase the proper tool without consideration of the financial burden to my family, the effect on the environment or the starving children in Africa!

I’ve been sewing for 40+ years and I’ve never owned a seam gauge.  I vaguely remember one at the age of eight in a Girl Scout sewing kit but I must have lost it shortly after possessing it. What possessed me, you ask?  I have several requests to teach an alterations class in writing the lesson plan, I keep coming back to the use of a seam gauge.  As I gathered up my tools, I was embarrassed to see what I have been using instead:  an old plastic 6inch ruler supporting the Future Farmers of America, an old plastic 12inch ruler from a food salesman with the Kraft brand on it, a similar ruler from the AMAX coal company, a child’s ruler left behind at Vacation Bible School and yes, on occasion, I have been know to use a dollar bill.

Who knows what I will be able to accomplish with the “proper tools”!