Sew Wrong
Superhero Swing

New take on an (old???) favorite - the pillowcase skirt gets pleats and a waistband made of an old tee. Funky!

Tension Revealed

Have you ever looked at the tension dial on the front of your computer and shuddered at the thought of turning it?
Have you gotten incredibly wonky stitches and just played with that scary dial until things looked good enough?

I have. I've decided to overcome my fear of the tension dial and get it to do my bidding instead of praying I won't need to touch it. Thankfully, these folks have helped me. There's a lot of information on this page so you may want to make a snack before you start reading. I've printed out the page and filed it in my sewing cabinet for quick future reference. Thanks to this, I'll no longer be a slave to that scary dial.


I've decided to admit that my cheap-o iron is going the way of the dinosaur. It's close to becoming extinct. It's served me well, but now it is time to see it go. Since I do a lot more ironing for sewing than I ever do for clothing, I'm wondering what I should look for in an iron. I'd like to spend less than $100, but I'm not really sure what features to look out for. My habit has been to buy whatever iron they have at the drugstore and that's obviously not the best thing to do.

DIY Dress Forms

Having a dress form can really take your sewing to the next level, but they are quite expensive. Of course, you could make your own out of -- what else -- duct tape! (Some other methods are discussed in that article.) Has anyone done this? And what about pre-fabricated dress forms? Can anyone talk about the different types and brands out there, and what a potential buyer should look for?

Default Amount of Fabric?

I tend to buy fabric first and come up with a project for it later. This creates the obvious dilemma when I come across something I like: How much to buy? It's easier if the fabric is probably destined for clothing -- I buy three yards, enough for a skirt with plenty left over for smaller projects. Since I'm getting into quilting, though, it's much harder to decide how much when I come across some cotton I like. So I'm wondering, what is your "default" amount of fabric, and how does the fabric type, its cost, and your sewing habits effect your decision?

Portrait of a Textile Worker

When we sit at our sewing machines, we're doing it because it is a fun and creative and productive hobby. But, all over the world their are thousands of women who sit at sewing machines making clothing they can't afford that will go to fill shops in distant countries. Therese Agnew decided to create a quilt commemorating all the nameless workers who actually make the clothes we can find on sale throughout our stores. She got the idea after hearing two workers from Nicaragua talk about their working conditions. While walking through a store she realized that the names of the people who make our clothes are never revealed to us. This gave her the wonderful idea of taking name tags out of clothing and piecing them together to create an 8-foot by 9-foot quilt of a nameless Bangladeshi woman at a sewing machine. It's a beautiful and moving quilt that transcends craft and lands squarely in the art world.

Therese isn't finished, though. She still needs many more tags in neutral colors to finish her quilt.

Wanna New Bag

This square bottomed lined bag tutorial over at Craftster is excellent, and has super useful step by step photographs.

Reduce, Reuse, Refashion

The Umbrella Project shows a gorgeous corsetted gown made entirely from "20 umbrella pelts collected from the gutters of Berkeley and New York".

Pattern Brands

The new year seems to be the time of $1 pattern sales, so it's become an annual tradition for me to go out and stock up on a buttload of patterns. I like to think I'll actually use them someday! So with patterns on the brain, I pose this question:

What are your impressions of the different pattern brands? Do you have a favorite brand? And relatedly, do you have certain patterns that you use over and over again?

Button it up!

Once again, my favorite librarian comes through with a couple of great links.

I love buttons! I used to buy them from every yard sale/thrift store/junk store I went into. I had a huge selection of buttons that somehow got lost in one of my many moves. I also lost a book that had pictures and descriptions of buttons to help you distinguish age, make, manufacturer, etc. But now my desire to find lots of things online is helped by having access to the Button Information Index. If you're the super-organized type, you'll be delighted with their aphabetical Button dictionary. I can see myself collecting buttons once again.

Clean Machine

I asked at my local fabric store about getting a tune-up for my rather old Bernina sewing machine. (It came to me well-used, but well-loved and the repair shop where it was regularly taken is nowhere near where I live.) I've been using it more than normal lately, and I'm afraid of having it go down on me. I've been cleaning it to the best of my ability with litle pipe cleaners and a blast of air, but the manual AND the woman who sold it to me said it should be cleaned and oiled professionally every six months.

So I ask the repair tech how much it would cost to get it looked at.
"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing's wrong. I've just been using it a lot and I was told to get it looked at every six months and its been more like two years."
"Does it make noises, drop stitches, or smell funny when you run it?"
"No, it seems just fine."
"Then you don't need to bring it in."
"What about getting it tuned-up and oiled? It's at least a 40-year-old Bernina."
"Whoever said that to you was hoping to make some money. You can probably run it for ten years on one application of oil. Bring it in when you notice something wrong with it. Until then, spend your money on other stuff."

So, here's my question: Is regular professional maintenance necessary? or is it an attempt by a repair shop to make regular cash?

Slip Not

I got the rotary cutter and the great big cutting mat, but my big clear plastic rulers were slipping. Invisi-Grip to the rescue. I was afraid it would have a tacky surface, but it is completely devoid of adhesives, and is removable and repositionable. I works like Colorforms but much better, and clear so you aren't getting in the way of ruler marks.


I know what you're saying, "oh my God not please not another '-ster.'" But I think this one has more staying power than "Nap-" and "Friend-" combined. It's, and while it's really just a forum, it has quite the extensive topic list and fast-growing membership.

Each topic (sewing, housewares, purses/handbags, and so on) has a "completed projects" section in which members share detailed instructions and digital photos of every step involved in their project.

So far some simple and intriguing sewing-related projects I've seen at Craftster: sushi magnets (or cat toys); scarves & mittens forged from old sweaters; making too-big T-shirts into form-fitting ones; fabric scrap quilt.

There's also a section for posting vintage/kitschy projects scanned from old craft and sewing books, and a place to post local crafty gatherings.

Sew Fun

If you want to learn to sew but cannot commit to heavy, uninspiring books like the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, allow me to suggest the cheery and non threatening Sew Fast Sew Easy as a good place to start. It covers the basics, comes with patterns for a pillow, tote bag and skirt you shape to fit your own frame, and the cute little drawings will help stave off frustration.

Sew vulgar its cute

One of the first crafts I picked up was cross-stitch. My mom bought me a little kit that had a printed Christmas pattern on the material and I just took the appropriately colored embroidery floss and made little x's until I got a cute ornament that continues to hang on my mother's tree each year. Eventually I got plain fabric and and a pattern where I had to count and made several gifts for people at Christmas.

Then, sometime in high school I got bored with the charming scenes, the cuteness, the sweet sentiments. I wanted something punk and tough and daring.

Well, many, many years later, Subversive Cross Stitch has come through for me. Some of them are a bit rated R due to language, but its good to know that there might be younger girls and boys putting away their skateboards and then getting together to cross-stitch some of these things. Yeah, cross-stitch is a technique, not a style.

Austin Church of Craft

The Austin chapter of the Church of Craft is forming! Our first meeting is this Sunday, Nov. 9, 3-5pm, at Ruta Maya's grand new location on South Congress. Bring some of your handiwork to show and tell, bring a work-in-progress, bring supplies to share or horde, or just bring yourself.

(Sorry to use Sew Wrong for a localized announcement ... but my last CoC post here was such a galvanizing force it seemed only appropriate!)

Mayhaps We Need a "Product" Category?

When purchasing items for sewing - or any crafting, really - I tend to look for bargains on eBay, first, even for larger incidentals. Handmade solutions to craft issues are particularly attractive. About a year ago, I bumped into the auctions of Robert and Penny Virag. They make lots of tools for sewing and quilting, like lightboxes and display racks, but I was most interested in their machine angle tables. So I ordered one. Wonderfully sturdy, well-built thing. I realize I haven't done much in the way of sewing since then, but time I have spent at the machine has been so much nicer to my shoulders thanks to the lovely bit of lift I get from that angle.

Glow in the Dark Thread

Today's Daily Candy is about glow in the dark embroidery thread - NiteLite Extra Glow - which glows for eight hours.

Dry Storage

I read somewhere that it's good practice to put a packet of that dessicant silica gel in with your sewing machine when you're not using it. I'm not planning on buying shoes any time soon. Instead I think a bag of Litter Pearls stitched inside of a packet of interfacing will work as well. In my case, I'm going to make enough of these to justify buying a whole bag (multiple sewing machines and an embarrassment of musical equipment live in this house). If you only need a couple perhaps you could plan to raid a Payless. You didn't hear it here.

Storing Bobbins

After seething over the amount of times all of the bobbins would jump out of those clear plastic boxes, I got a Bobbin Saver. Looking at it I wonder if some split tubing would work as well. So far I've resisted getting a spool rack, I'm hoping a cheaper alternative will present itself.

How do you store bobbins and thread?

Quilt Index

The Alliance for American Quilts has put up a website named The Quilt Index which will serve as a repository of their 20 years of documented quilts in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Michigan. You can search their database or browse by state, time period, style/technique, and purpose/function. They're also trying to set up standards and forms to help others who are undertaking a quilt documentation project. The images are wonderful, the information is organized well, the writing is clear. In short, I hope a lot of other people help the alliance fill out the index so eventually it covers not only every state in the US but other countries as well.

Thanks to That Rabbit Girl for the link. I love librarians.

Sew sweet!

Charlotte Kruk grew tired of hearing how women are sweet, so she decided to wear her frustration on her sleeve, and her back and her hips. She creates dresses and accessories out of candy wrappers. They're divine and calorie-free.

New School

I learned how to sew in college, and we we taught how to do it all the old way - heavy Ginghers, tailors chalk, thread trace lines instead of ever marking from the front. I've been doing a bunch more sewing lately and at first I was following all the rules. I told myself I was taking pride in the craft and upholding tradition. But then all that thread tracing started taking a long time and the scissors made my wrist ache.

I broke down and bought some of that disappearing purple marker so I could mark the fabric from the front. I felt kind of guilty, like I was betraying everything I had been taught. I still feel like this is somehow cheating (especially when it's something which can be bought from a generic fabric store, for whatever reason). I'm going back for those scissors with a spring so that they stay open and ease some of the strain. And I just see a large cutting mat and a cutting wheel (like a super sharp pizza cutter) in my future if I keep it up.

So I'm curious -- What gadgets or tools of modern sewing convenience do you adore?

Hole Punches

I am finding these little hole punches are perfect for putting marking holes into homemade patterns for things you need to mark from the front, like pocket placement. You whack them with a small mallet over a cutting board. It's therapeutic!

To Market

Brandy shares her experience, survival tips and tricks for selling at craft fairs, markets, and such. Lots of good ideas there, stuff I know I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own.