Thinking fall-ward

Yesterday, I’m pleased to report, I finished my wedding reception gift.  My friend wanted 16 of the 24″ table squares, and I had enough fabric to make 20.

Plus a yard left over for another project.


I never claimed to have stellar estimating skills

Though I did stick to my resolution to focus joyfully on the process, I can’t say I didn’t do a happy dance when I finished.  By the end, I was quite speedy.  I could do two squares from cutting, to miters, to finished in about an hour and 15 minutes.  The last six were done assembly-line style:  cut all, mark all, press all, miter all, hem all, press all.

Now that I’m done with that, I want to think about some fall sewing for me.  Things are decidedly different this year–I’m working from home most of the time and don’t have to stumble out of the house by 7:30.  I need to be able to dash to the office at times, but most days I’ll be working from the kitchen table.  I’ve been reading the wardrobe recommendations in the magazines I subscribe too, and most of them seem too frou-frou for kitchen table work.   I’m a bit like a stay-at-home Mom as far as wardrobe needs are concerned, except that I don’t have to worry about finger paint and play dough.

I don’t want to sink into the jeans-and-t-shirt rut, however, and I do need to be decent enough to go to the office if need be.

The new Ottobre Designs for Woman came Saturday, and there’s plenty of  wardrobe inspiration in there!  Perhaps I can work some of those things into a suitable plan for the fall.  I’ll show you my faves later this week.

Roman Shades

My shades:
Upstairs blinds--I made two of these
Hobbled shade in bathroom--I made only one!
Downstairs shades--I made 10 of these
Here's my class shade.

A few Saturdays ago the Atlanta chapter of ASG sponsored a class on making roman shades with Pam Damour.  I wanted to take it, but wasn’t sure I could leave Mr H home alone, didn’t have anyone to ride with, didn’t blah, blah, blah.  You know about excuses, I’m sure.  Anyway, turns out my friend Karen wanted to go too, and her DH is a friend of the Mr’s.  Woo hoo!  Thank you!

Needless to say that we packed up our stuff and headed toward Atlanta on the designated Saturday… There was a lot of stuff to pack, and I’m not sure we used all of it, but now I have some extra tools in my arsenal.  We were asked to bring

  • Sewing Machine
  • Basic sewing supplies
  • 60” ruler (if you have one) or 2 yard sticks
  • 18” ruler
  • Metal tape measure
  • Neutral thread and polyester  invisible thread
  • Paper and pen
  • Calculator

I think most of those items would be used if you were making a custom shade.  In this class we were all making the same size shade (which won’t fit any of my windows :-( ), so we did not measure or calculate much.  She gave us a worksheet to help with future projects, so I’m sure I’ll need these things later.  (I did not own two yardsticks, and they’ve already come in handy on my wedding reception project.)

There were a number of differences between the shade we made in class and the ones I had made previously.

  • I usually sew little tucks along the width to sew the rings onto.  Those little tucks create the folds when the shade is raised.  In class we used plastic ribs and sewed the rings directly to the shade.  One of my ribs broke, and the stitching for the rings shows on the outside.  I’m not sold on this, but it’s an alternative.
  • Pam covered our mounting boards with lining fabric.  This looks wonderful, and I will adopt that practice with the next shade I mount on a board.
  • My early shades have been lined to the edge.  In class we cut our lining two inches smaller than our outer fabric to make the outer fabric edge wrap to the inside.  We also turned up a 4″ hem and turned a bit to the inside and topstitched it down.  The first fold covers the hem.  This looks nice!
  • I usually use hook & loop fastener to attach my shades to the board so that I can get them down for washing.  This will also facilitate changing the shade later, too, should I want to make more in a different fabric.  In class we stapled our shades directly to the mounting board.  I don’t suppose a decorator would be worried about laundry or changing out the shade for another.  Nor would she wash the fabric prior to sewing the blinds to eliminate shrinkage.  I’ll stick with my hook & loop method.
  • To allow me raise and lower the shade, I usually install a cleat on the window frame.  Our class kit included a cord lock (cord stop?)–I can’t remember what you call the thing.  Anyway, it’s a little gizmo that you run the cords through that holds them when you get the shade where you want it.  These are fantastic!  I will be using these from now on!
  • We covered and installed a weight rod in our class shade.  It’s placed in the hem and we stitched the edges together to keep it in there. This is a good thing.  My earlier shades don’t have a weight, and sometimes I have to help them down.

So, I learned some nice techniques, and the class was well worth attending.  Here are a couple of photos (click on them to enlarge):

My finished shade from class This is my finished shade.  This is just flung over a door because it’s too small for any of my windows.  You can see that Pam had us permanently tie the bottom fold in place to hide the top stitched hem.  You’ll see the back further down.
Back of finished shade Here’s the cord lock and my braided cording.  The class kit contained a wooden pull to put on the end of the cords. This one is much nicer than the plastic ones that I usually use. You can also see the fabric covered board that the shade is mounted on.
Back of shade showing rings and hem. Here’s the edge of the shade showing the hem and the edges.  You can also see how the bottom fold is tied in place.  Pam said this helped to overcome any problems with a window being a little “off.”

I can highly recommend taking a class with Pam, if you get a chance and are at all interested in sewing for Home Dec. My shades should be much nicer after taking this class.

Of gifts and sewing pleasure

A friend is getting married next month, and I gifted her with some sewing for the wedding reception.   Nothing major, just some colorful squares for the centers of her tables.  Given my long history of hemming leftover fabric for dinner napkins, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to make these.  I planned to use my usual hemming method detailed in the link above.  It’s easy, fast, and works fine for napkins.

When the fabric arrived it turned out to be polyester satin, which gave me a bit of a fright and put my offer in perspective:  This was a bigger gift that would take more of a commitment than I had first thought.  Don’t get me wrong, my friend is definitely worthy of such a gift, I just had to change the way I thought about it.

The hem I normally use requires a forgiving (aka natural fiber) fabric, not one that might not press or turn smoothly (if at all!).  With my finger-turning method, the polyester satin might ripple, rope, and roll.  I certainly didn’t want that, so I had to shift into research and development mode so that I could make a worthwhile gift.

I already knew about using a micro-tex needle, loosening tension, and adjusting the stitch length, but I needed more. I needed a fool-proof method.   I searched the web for hemming satin, polyester satin, and finally, simply, napkins to get ideas.  I found an article by Mary Ray on hemming napkins that showed me a method for mitering and hemming that I could use.  The wider hem and the real mitered corners–along with special needles, stitch length and tension–would produce the kind of gift I could be proud to give.

I tested the method on a scrap, and to my surprise, the polyester pressed beautifully.  The stitching does want to pucker, so I have to be careful of that.  I even tested my purple pen to be sure it would disappear from the fabric as I expected.

There was some mental preparation involved, too.  From the beginning I made up my mind that I would not rush this.  I had plenty of time.  I would not allow my usual impatience to rob me of the pleasure of sewing these for my friend.  Usually when I sew many of the same item, I tend to get impatient to be done and thus a bit stressed out.   I would not be rushing or planning another project while I was sewing these.

I wanted to sew joy into my gift!

Sew far, sew good. I’ve been doing two at a time.  I’ll pull a thread and cut across.  Then I’ll trim the selvage off that piece and measure over 26 inches and cut vertically to make the two squares.  Next I mark 1″ all around the edge with my purple pen and then 1/4″.  After that it’s the pressing.  I’m using the edge of a manila folder to press over to give me a nice even press.  I line it up along the purple line and press around the one-inch marking, then along the 1/4″ mark and proceed as in the article.

I’ve done 9 of 16.  There’s actually enough fabric to make 20, so I may finish a few extra–just in case.

Extra squares, extra gift, extra joy!


Ottobre Stretch Capris

Sage Ottobre Capris

So what else have I been sewing? Several things that I haven’t mentioned yet, among them a pair of stretch capris from Ottobre 2/07.  That’s a wonderful issue, BTW– I’ve made about a bazillion tops from it, and now these capris.

I have to admit that I resisted wearing capris for the first 6-8 years of their popularity, thinking they would surely disappear from the fashion scene before very much time had passed.  The truth was that I didn’t think I should wear something that exposed so much of my bony ankles.

Then I got over myself and tried a pair–

and kicked myself for waiting so long!  They’re much cooler than full-length pants or jeans.  They cover the bony knees, don’t require hosiery, and go well with summer sandals.  Not only that, but you can take them places that you wouldn’t want to wear shorts.

What’s not to like?  I needed more!

Last year I had purchased a length of sage bottomweight from a clearance sale at Sawyer Brook.  When it arrived, I was dismayed to discover that it was a)  45″ wide rather than 60″ and b) a lycra blend (I have long-ago sworn off lycra blends because of their never-ending shrinkage and bagging).   Let me say that neither of those problems was SB’s fault.  All of that information was on the screen, I just hadn’t read carefully.  (Let that be a lesson!)

No matter.  I adored the color, and even though I didn’t purchase enough to make the pants I had in mind, I kept it.  (What is it with me and green??)

When I decided to make more capris, the sage green caught my eye, and it was a match made in heaven!  I had just barely enough and the pattern called for a stretch fabric. This is  Ottobre Designs for Women, #2/07, #114/115.  I used the #114 size range and #115 details and eliminating the back pockets.

2/2007 #14 2/2007 #15

I cut a size 40, going by my measurements.  I was tempted to go with a 38, but  I was afraid that they had allowed less ease given the patterns suggested stretch fabric.

In the end, I removed an extra 1/2 inch from each side seam all the way from waist to hem.  After wearing (and washing) the pants one time, I went back and removed an additional 1/2 inch from each side of the waistband–that’s a total of 2 inches removed from the waist.

A 38 would have been better.

Since I was short on fabric, I rummaged through my stash and found a remnant of a wonderful peacock feather print for the pocket lining, fly shield and waistband lining.  I used a vintage button at the waist and plan to install a trouser hook at the end of that waistband underlap (any day now)…


I’d like to say that I plan to make another pair of these right away, but the truth is that I probably don’t need another this season.  The long hot summer is almost over–YAY!

Glasses Case

Hi!  Long time no see.  Work has been so busy that, after work, I’m either still working or unable to look at a computer for another second.  Hopefully things will start to settle down now that the first week of classes is behind us.

A few Saturdays ago, we had a fun program at my ASG (American Sewing Guild) neighborhood group meeting.  It was about things that you could sew for gifts. Starting as sort of a “Christmas in July” thing, it expanded to more than just Christmas gift ideas.  Each person was to bring at least one idea.

For my offering, I made something that I had been wanting to make for a while.  I copied a case that my prescription sunglasses came in. The original case was some sort of velvety bonded leatherette with a snap closure  like those we pound on with our Snap Setters.  The snap had received so much stress that it ripped right out of the fabric.  I loved that case–it was light weight and didn’t take up too much room in my purse.

It was a perfect pint-sized project, begging me to sew a copy of it.

Since I had no bonded leatherette and I wanted a magnetic snap this time, I had to plan a sew-and-turn design.  To make the pattern, I ripped open the case’s stitched side seams to make it lay flat, traced around it, and added seam allowances.  Then I cut lining, outer fabric and Peltex–with two layers of Peltex where the snap parts went.  I sewed the layers together leaving a turning opening, clipped, turned and pressed.

Closed case

open case

from the top

My outer fabric is more of that tooled-leather look knit that I found at the local Wal-M@rt a couple of years ago.  It was not a great choice for this since it tends to stretch as you sew it.  As long as I remembered to put the “leather” side next to the feed dogs, I was fine.  When I had to sew with this stuff next to the presser foot, I put transparent tape along the seam line so that the presser foot could ride there making sure that I didn’t stitch the tape.

On this new case I wanted a magnetic snap, but a regular snap or velcro would work fine.  I should have applied the snap before I turned it right side out but I didn’t think that far ahead, so I wiggled the parts in position and attached it after I had turned it.

I edge stitched whole piece to close the turning opening, then I folded the lower part up and stitched the sides to form the pouch.   I made the whole thing in less than an hour while helping Mr H practice his letters.  Talk about easy!

I made copies of my pattern for the ladies in the group.  Wanta make one?  Here’s my pattern.