Spaghetti Straps…Let’s make some!

Alot of what we do as seamstresses, is construct items that enhance a garment or upholstery project.

Making spaghetti straps (or straps of any width) or fabric covered tubes falls into that category.

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I borrowed this great tool from a friend of mine years ago. It’s called a Fast Turn.

It has that name because it helps you turn these tubes of fabric right side out in a matter of seconds.

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This one is made by Nancy’s Notions. A less expensive one is found at Clothilde. There’s even this one which is ultra cheap, but I can’t tell from the picture if it works as well. Hey, it might even be better. Anyone?

There are two main components. One is a brass tube and the other is a wire with a squiggly tip at one end and a plastic glob at the other.

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The squiggle tip looks like this:

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Each kit comes with several sizes, so that you can make many different widths of straps or tubes.

You can use the turning technique for anything you are making.

Today, we’ll be making spaghetti straps. The measurements I give you make a perfect spaghetti straps.

If you need to buy fabric to make the straps, you’ll only need to buy 1/8 yard. However, they won’t take up much of that 1/8 yard. You may find that you have small narrow scraps lying around that might work perfectly.

Each strip of fabic will only be 1 1/8″ x 18″. Eighteen inches might be a little long, but you’d rather have them be too long than too short. Right?

So, first cut your strip(s) 1 1/8″ x 18″. I use a rotary cutter and mat, but you can easily do this with scissors if you don’t have the cutter and mat.

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The strip looks really narrow, doesn’t it?

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Good. You have it right.

Now fold it lengthwise, right sides together, and sew down the long edge of it with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Choose a brass tube that will fit into the hole without being too big (tight) or too small (loose).

Insert the brass tube into the hole you just made in the strip:

Push it all the way through the tube of fabric until it sticks out of the opposite end.

Next, slide the coordinating wire (which has the squiggly tip) into the tube.

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Fold over the very top edge of the black satin so it covers the brass hole. Hold it down with your finger.

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Now, slide the wire up through the brass tube and twist it so that the squiggly end comes up through the fabric like this:

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Now, gently pull the plastic end of the wire gizmo. As you pull the wire back through the brass tube, the wire will be bringing the fabric along with it.

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Keep pulling on that wire portion and soon you’ll see the fabric come out of the end

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Once you’ve pulled it all the way out, untwist the wire and gently pull it away from the strap.

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Sew your straps into the dress or camisole or whatever project you’re working on.

Wasn’t that easy?

Fray Block…What is that?

Have you ever tried sewing on fabric that frays and ravels on you? There’s usually a big mess of tangled threads that get in your way. Many store bought garments pop out at the seams because  the seam allowance was very narrow to begin with and the fabric started fraying.

So, let’s fix that.

Have you heard of Fray Block?


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I don’t mean Fray Check:




I used Fray Check for years, but it always left behind a harsh, crusty, scratchy feel to it and if you used it in a garment where it touched your skin, it would irritate you all day long.

So, I tried Fray Block when a sales clerk at JoAnn Fabrics gave me the tip. By the way, you can buy it at JoAnn Fabrics (the store) or JoAnn Fabrics online .

Begin by poking a tiny hole at the end of the tube. You apply it the same way as you do Fray Check…with the tip of the tube against the fabric. I don’t even squeeze the tube because it comes out faster than you think. So, be prepared!

Try using it on a scrap piece of fabric (especially if what you’re working on is an expensive fabric or is irreplaceable). If you don’t have a scrap, try it on a seam allowance.

You gotta move quickly because if you leave it at one spot too long, it may leak and leave a big puddle on your fabric. Sometimes that puddle can migrate past the seam allowance, so that is why using a scrap is so important until you get the hang of it.

Always put a piece of thick paper behind the fabric you’re working on so it doesn’t leak through and cause you problems.

Do you see the tip of the tube on the upper left side of this photo? I ran the tip along the edge of the fabric. I didn’t move very quickly because I was trying to use the Fray Block with my left hand while taking a photo with my right hand. But you get the idea.

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Sometimes it makes sense to put some of the Fray Block on a Q-tip first and then apply it.

After your test piece has dried (which takes about ten minutes), make sure it looks good to you before you try it on the garment or craft project you are working on.

When it is dry, it should look like this:

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It should be soft to the touch.

You’ll want to store the tube in an upright position so it doesn’t clog the tip. I store mine in my pencil keeper right next to my machine.

Well, there you have it……. A fabulous way to keep fabric from fraying!

Hemming Stretch Knits

Do you have trouble hemming stretchy knits? They can be tricky. Let’s look at the various ways to hem knits so that they don’t stretch out.

Then, we’ll look at some alternatives and see if they work as well.

This dress is a customer’s. Her dog chewed the hemline and she brought it to me to see if it can be salvaged.

sewing blog 149So, I had her try it on with the shoes she will wear with it. I pinned it at the length she wanted it to be. To get that length all around the dress, I used a yard stick and noted that she wanted it 24″ off the ground. So, I put several pins all around the circumference so that I’d have the new hemline even all around.

Then, I folded under the hem along the pin line and put additional pins to hold the excess hem fabric.

sewing blog 150Take out any pins that are directly on the new foldline. Turn the garment wrong side out and press along that fold with the iron set at the correct temperature for the fabric. I always press the hems on the wrong side so that I don’t get a “shine” on the fabric from the iron.

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Turn it right side out again and lay it flat. I put it on the ironing board and make sure the under layer isn’t getting caught underneath it.

I measured the original hemline amount and it is 5/8″ wide. This will be the measurement we use on the new hem.

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Now, we’ll cut 5/8″ away from our new foldline (towards the original hem edge).

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***If you are hemming a T-shirt, do not finish the raw edge by serging it. The reason is that you want the T-shirt hem to stretch so it can fit over your head. If you serge it, you have lost the stretchiness of the fabric. (Technically, you don’t have to finish the edge on a knit fabric as they don’t fray). If you have a cover stitch option on your serger, use that because that will keep the stretchiness in.

Again, since this is a dress and doesn’t need to stretch, I have used a serger to finish the edge.

sewing blog 154Now, you’ll want to pin the hem all the way around. I use a pin about every half inch to every one inch depending on how stretchy the fabric is. The more stretchy the knit, the closer the pins should be.

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See how I pinned the skirt from the right side? I turned it to the wrong side so you can see it from that angle as well.

If you are putting in a double hemline (two rows of stitching running parallel to each other), use a double needle. Schmetz makes these and you’ll find them at your local sewing store or online. I prefer the Stretch double needle, but my store doesn’t carry them anymore, so I have been using the regular double needle. There are varying widths between the 2 needles. This one is 4.0:

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Replace your regular needle with this one. You’ll need to add another spool of thread to the second spindle on your machine. Thread both threads together as though you are threading with one. When you get to the double needles, of course, you’ll thread one through one needle and the other thread through the other needle.

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You can see it better here:

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If you are using a single needles, use a “Stretch” needle. These are also available at your local sewing store or online.

Stitch around the hem with the double needle (or the single). Be sure not to stitch over your pins. Take them out just before you stitch over that area or you may break the needle and cause it to get jammed underneath, which is a big mess to fix. Notice, I am stitching at the 1/2″ mark. Since our hem was to be 5/8″ wide, we want to make sure we catch all the fabric in the hem we are putting in. This assures that we won’t miss any of the hem when we stitch.

sewing blog 159So that you can see the stitching lines better, I stitched this same seam on a white knit fabric with black thread. I did not serge this raw edge so that you can see what the seam alone looks like. As you can see on the backside, the double needle creates a seam that allows the garment to keep its stretch.

sewing blog 160You may be wondering if there is another way to put a hem in knit fabrics.

Let’s look:

1. Don’t use fusible web like Stitch Witchery to hold your hem. First, it looks baked on and it doesn’t stretch so that it looks like a piece of masking tape was stuck to the underside. By the way, don’t use masking tape or duct tape either! The gooey film never comes off.

2. If you want the double row of stitching, be sure to get the double needle. It doesn’t look near as professional to sew two single lines of stitching. The double needle makes it look uniform and professional.

3. Be sure to pin the hemline all the way around the garment. Or, you can sew a basting stitch in instead. If you don’t pin or sew a basting stitch, the fabric will bunch up and gather and then you’ll be forced to take out the stitches and start again. Sometimes using a walking foot helps, and sometimes not. Experiment with it on a scrap of fabric if your machine came with one.

4. You can sew the hem by hand. You will want to use this technique when you don’t want the stitches to show at all from the right side.

Ok, I think that about covers it. I hope this has helped you understand the steps involved in sewing on stretchy fabrics.

How To Thread a Serger Quickly

Before we look at How to Hem Stretchy Knit Fabrics, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you a quick way to thread your serger. The post on hemming will cover how to hem with and without a serger.

Until I learned this threading shortcut  myself, it took forever to thread one. Now, it’s a piece of cake.

I have a 3/4 thread serger, but you can adapt this technique to however many threads your serger has. On my serger, two threads are threaded through the needles and two threads make up the loopers. The loopers are hidden inside the machine and you can see them if you open up the bottom portion of your serger. The thread from the loopers make the loops on the fabric that connect with the threads from the needles.

So, to change the thread to a different color, have your serger  threaded already. (If it is not, be sure to read your manual and thread it correctly, the way your manual indicates.) Each machine is threaded differently and most have a color diagram to follow. I open the bottom covers of my machine and the diagram is located on the lower right side.

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I was having trouble threading my machine so that it would serge a nice seam correctly. So, I tried threading the threads in a different order. With my machine, I have to thread the looper that is on the far right first.

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Then, I thread the one that is second from the far right.

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My manual didn’t tell me this important information. So, if you’re having trouble threading your machine, my suggestion is to keep trying different sequences until it works and then write down what you did so you can repeat it next time.

Commercial break: Use one of these long handled pair of tweezers to help you thread your machine. Most , if not all, machines come with them. They are great at helping you reach into tiny places to thread the needles or the loopers.

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Now let’s look at how to thread the serger quickly. (There is no shortcut to threading the serger for the first time, but after that, this technique will save you alot of time threading it in the future).

There is no shortcut to threading the needles, either, but you can thread those fast anyway.  This technique will teach you to thread the loopers quickly. That is the part that used to take me forever!

As you can see, my serger has black thread in it and I am going to change it to a cream color.

First, cut the last two threads (the looper threads), which are on the far right of the machine, about 6-8 inches up from the tension dials.

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(My sewing machine is behind my serger in the last photo, so I hope that doesn’t throw you off.)

Next, cut the thread that comes out of the two needles. Cut it just under the needles:

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In the above photo, do you see the thread tail (or thread chain) coming out of the needle area? Make a mental note of that because we will talk about that in the next few steps.

Now, take off those 4 cones of thread and replace them with 4 cones of the color you plan to use.

Thread all four threads through the telescopic thread stand first:

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Remember the two black threads that you cut 6-8 inches above the tension dials?

You are going to take each one and tie it to the new thread with at least three knots. Make sure you tie at least three knots because you want the threads to stay together for the next step. Tie them tight.

Do you see the old black thread being tied to the new cream one? Do this for both of those black threads:

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Next, set the far right tension dials to zero.

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Gently, pull the old black thread chain (remember the photo above?) until you see the new cream thread coming out of  the serger. To clarify this, you are going to pull the thread chain that comes out of the serger near the needle area. As you pull these black threads, the new cream threads are getting threaded through your machine so that you don’t have to do it manually. The knots that you tied should stay tied all the way through and you shouldn’t have any snags. If you do encounter a snag, check to make sure that your tension dials are set at zero and your needle thread has been cut.

You can see the spot where the black threads are knotted to the cream:

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Sorry, that’s not the best picture, but hopefully, you can see that the black thread is to the left and the new cream thread is on the right.

*Be sure to set the tension dials back to the desired numbers.

Now, thread the two needles, following the diagram, with the corresponding threads.

You can’t tie the new colored threads onto the old threads when it comes to the needles because the knots won’t fit through the eyes of the needles.

You are ready to serge. Wasn’t that easy?

Sergers…Do You Need One?

For many years I lived without a serger. First of all, they weren’t even invented when I started to sew. But even years after they were available, I still hadn’t forked over the money for one. I hemmed (no pun intended) and hawed about the cost and wondered if I’d ever use the thing. After all, my sewing machine could finish an edge just fine, I reasoned.

But on my 39th birthday, my husband proudly set a large box on the table and I opened it to find this:

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He had earned enough bonus points at work to choose a prize from a catalog that featured all sorts of wonderful items. And he bypassed all the toys a guy would like in favor of this serger as a surprise for me. Wasn’t that sweet? That’s my man.

And, boy was I surprised.

And, then I have to be honest. …

I let it sit there  for  months. I was intimidated and didn’t know how to make it work. Probably would have helped to read the manual right off the bat rather than let it intimidate me with the silent treatment.

One day, I sat and looked at the manual and learned how to thread it.

The next day I learned about tension. I watched the video that came with it and learned even more. By the end of the week I had enough courage to actually try it out.

And it’s been a match made in heaven ever since!

So, do you need one?

Well, it depends on what your definition of need is.

I use mine almost every day that I sew. And that’s about 5 days a week.

It does such a beautiful job of finishing an edge. (In this photo, I put the serged edge on another piece of the same fabric so you could see the stitches better).

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It does such a wonderful job of rolling an edge (great for making cloth napkins and certain serged hemlines).

Because I sew for other people, it makes my hems look professional.

That in itself is worth it.

I’ve also used it to finish off a torn edge on towels, rags, and finishing seam allowances on clothing that I make.

So, if you decide to buy one, there are a few options to consider.

First, be sure and get one that has differential feed. Sergers have two feed dogs and differential feed regulates them so that it serges a perfect edge every time. Whether you are serging stretchy fabrics or condensables like georgette and crepe, it serges them flat every time. And, of course, it works great on cottons, polys, silks, linens, denim, and every other fabric under the sun.

If you can, get one that does a cover stitch. This means that you can hem a knit (or other fabric) without the loops going over the edge. Look at a T-shirt like this one:

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This has been done with a cover stitch. See, the underside is nice and finished:

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I have one that has the option of using three or four threads. It’s called a 3/4 thread serger. The three thread option does the rolled hems. The four thread does the rest. For me, that’s all I need.

But, if you like decorative stitches, there are all sorts of combos out there. (3/4/5 thread, 2 thread, 4/5 thread, etc.) There are even machines that will combine a regular serged (flatlock) stitch with a cover stitch to give it an 8 thread look. So, check them out. See what fits your sewing lifestyle and your budget.

There are some sergers that offer a chain stitch. I would love to have this option. It’s the stitch that you see on lots of ready made clothing. It looks just like a chain with “links” on one side and a straight stitch on the other. When you need to do an alteration, you pull on one thread and the whole seam comes out instantaneously. What a time saver!

Let’s talk about tension. At first I was intimidated by the tension settings as each dial is set independently of the other. So, once I figured out the perfect tension for a certain kind of fabric, I wrote it down. The numbers I wrote down represent the dials on the serger (from left to right). With this little system, I don’t have to re-figure out the tension every time I sit down to serge. Of course, your settings may be different on your machine.

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Pretty sophisticated system, huh? I lost this paper for about a year once and I was beside myself. It took moving to another house to find it!

Can you live without a serger?


Can you still hem stretchy knits without a cover stitch?


Can you still construct garments without one?

Yes, but some of my friends construct garments almost entirely with a serger because it stitches and finishes the seam all at the same time.

Do your homework on brands and models. Look at Consumer Reports and similar publications on the subject and see what features you like best. Borrow a serger from a friend or relative and give it a try. Then, visit your local sewing machine dealer and test drive several. Many dealers will let you check one out for a few days. You may have to leave your first born as collateral, but, hey, that might be just what the two of you need!

If buying a new serger is not in your budget, save up for a used one. Check out your local Craigslist and ebay. It may take some patience waiting for the right one to come along, but it’ll be worth it.

I’ve got to say that if something ever happened to my serger, I’d be awfully bummed. It’s become as important to me as my sewing machine. I think once you’ve tried one, you’ll feel the same way!

Cover a Foam Pad..Bench Seat…Final Steps

Today we’ll finish the cushion and then tomorrow we’ll go back to general alterations and gadgets.

Note: If you think you missed Part 2, that was the Piping post.  If you didn’t put piping in your cushion, you only need to follow Part 1 and then this post (Final steps). Just ignore the instructions that have to do with piping.

Now, to begin where Part 1 left off, once your piping is in, it should look like this:

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***Take this piece and lay it over the foam. Make sure it isn’t too big for the foam. This is the time to make any corrections if you need to. You sure don’t want to have to rip the whole thing out and start over. It is ok if it is a bit too small for the foam. That will make a nice snug fit. You don’t want it to be too big. If it is, take off the piping figure out how much bigger the seam allowances should be and then resew it on. Make the same adjustment to the bottom piece.

Now, you are going to sew on the narrow strip that will cover the height of the cushion (or the thickness of it).

Take that narrow strip that will go all the way around the cushion and lay it right sides together on top of the piping. Leave about 3 inches free before you start sewing. Begin sewing in an area that is not close to a corner. I have turned the seam sideways so you can see where I started sewing:

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Stitch all the way around the cushion and stop when you get about 3 inches away from the end. Grab the two ends of fabric and pinch them until they meet and put a pin in that spot like this:

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Now, stitch across perpendicular to the cut edge, from the pin to the other edge of the narrow strip as shown:

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Trim off the excess seam allowance to 1/2″. Open the seam and spread it flat. Then stitch the remainder of the seam:

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This is how it should look from the right side:

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Now, you’re going to stitch the bottom piece of the cushion to this narrow strip. This time, make sure you pin it all the way around the edges to make sure they meet up well. Make sure your corners are matched at the correct points. Stitch all the way around the cushion leaving a wide enough area to get the foam inside. Stitch right over the first stitching using the zipper foot or piping foot again.

This is how it should look from the wrong side:

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This is how it will look from the right side:

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I’m going back to the original cushion that I made for my neighbor since the gold and red fabrics were just samples for you to see the actual sewing.

You need to put the foam inside the cushion next. Because my cushion was so long, this was a two man job. My husband inserted the foam into the cushion. Notice the cushion is still wrong side out. When he pushed the foam all the way into the cushion and matched the corners, my job was to reach into the cushion and hold those two corners and the foam while he turned it right side out over the foam:

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Just keep working the fabric by pulling and shimmy-ing it:

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When you have it turned all the way, you’ll need to hand stitch the opening closed:

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You’re finished! Great job!

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Piping….Let’s Make some!

Let’s Make the Piping today! You can use these instructions for making piping on any project you are working on.

(If you’ve decided not to use piping on your cushion, stay tuned for the instructions on putting the cushion together in the next post to follow.)

You’ll need that cording I mentioned in the How to Make a Cushion Cover..Bench Seat..Part One post. I found some made of cotton in the upholstery section of my local JoAnn Fabric store. It looks like this (top of the picture):

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As you probably noticed, I am switching the fabric that I used yesterday because I realized it is so dark that you can’t see it. Yes, this one is dark too, but I’ll use contrasting fabric and thread and you’ll see it better.






Now take the fabric that you are going to make piping with and fold it at a 45 degree angle. Can you see that I just took one corner and matched it to the opposite side?  (Refer to the above photo).

Now, looking at the photo below, use a straight edged ruler (see through rulers rule!) and  line it up on the folded edge (the diagonal edge of the fabric). Do you see that I lined it up on the 1″ mark? This is so that when I cut it, I will actually get a 2″ strip (because it os on the fold.) That is what I want is a 2″ wide strip. If you don’t have a rotary cutter, go ahead and mark right on the fabric and make a straight line and then cut it with scissors. Otherwise, cut it with the rotary cutter on the mat (not on your countertop or carpet or anything you value!)

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Once you have that strip cut out, move the ruler over to the TWO inch mark  and cut again. (Be careful not to cut at the one inch mark anymore because you no longer have a fold).

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Cut as many strips as you need to get the length for the top and bottom pieces of the cushion. That means for this cushion, I need 204″ for the top and 204″ for the bottom.

You may need to join some strips together to make the total amount you need. To do that, position them like I have them in the photo below:

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Mark a dotted line 1/4″ from the edge as shown. This will become your stitching line. Do you see how the top strip is perpendicular to the bottom strip? That is most important. Next, line up the dotted line to the edges of the strip that is underneath. Now, stitch on that line. (You may want to pin it in place before you stitch.)

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Now, trim off that extra fabric to the right side of the seam so that you have a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Press the seam open and lay it flat:

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You don’t have to have the edges perfect; this is close enough.


Now, turn the strip over and place the cording inside. To clarify, cording is the “string” inside the strip of fabric. Piping is what you call the strip of fabric with the cording inside, all made up. Place the cording down the middle of the strip and fold the strip over the top and pin it.sewing blog 098 Now it has become the piping!






You are ready to stitch the piping to the top piece of fabric. In this photo, the main fabric is solid gold. Leave about 3 inches of the piping unstitched. We need that loose right now so that when we stitch all the way around the fabric, we need to have some left to join the beginning to the end pieces. So, start sewing the piping to the fabric at about halfway down one side. This makes it easier to join the end pieces together later. Use either a piping foot or a zipper foot. This is a piping foot:

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As you can see, the piping fits in the groove under the foot. I move the needle one position to the right when I sew piping in. It gives it a tight fit.






This is the zipper foot:

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When using the zipper foot, you’ll want to make sure your needle is positioned all the way to the left side or it will hit the foot and break.

Stitch all the way down the side of the fabric and stop when you are 1/2″ away from the end. Remember, we have 1/2″ seam allowances, so that’s why we are stopping here. Looking at the photo above, you’ll stop with your needle down into the fabric.

Then, with the needle still in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot, or turn, the fabric and the piping toward you:

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You’ll want to clip a little snip into the fabric right at the corner so that the piping lays flatter, like this:

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As you can see, once I turned the corner, I put the presser foot down and continued sewing on the next side.

Continue those same steps all the way around your fabric top.

To finish the two raw edges, match up the ends as shown:


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This process may look familiar. It’s the same thing we did when we joined strips together to make one long one. Once you figure out where the end should end up, put a pin there. You may have to pin the two pieces together where the marker line is and check to see that it’s a snug fit. If not, adjust the lower strip until you get it right where you want it. Now, mark the top strip as shown with a marker showing the 1/4″ seam allowance.

Stitch along that line being careful not to catch the cording in the seam.

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Trim the cording so that when the 2 pieces butt up together they lay flat against one another like this:

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Now, stitch the rest of the seam closed like this:

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Follow the instructions in exactly the same way for the bottom piece.

On the next post, we’ll cover how to put the cushion together. You’re almost done now!

After the next post, I’ll go back to teaching some quicker techniques. So stay tuned!!!

Cover a Foam Pad…Bench Seat Cover…Part One

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Today, I am going to show you how to cover a foam pad to make a bench seat cover. This process can be applied to covering any sized foam pad (cushions for a couch, chair, boat seat, outdoor furniture, etc.) All you need to know is how to sew a straight line and even if it isn’t perfectly straight, it’s a very forgiving process.

Be sure to read through the instuctions completely before beginning your project. Again, this is Part 1, so more instructions willl follow.

First, you need to buy a piece of foam the length, width and thickness you want. Chances are, you won’t find foam in the perfect size, so, of course, you’ll need to get it larger than what your measurements are for the length and width  (but always try to buy the thickness you need. The thickness of the foam is quite difficult to cut down, but it is possible if you don’t have an alternative.) You can buy foam at a Joann Fabric store, Hancock’s, upholstery store, etc. Perhaps you can find it on the internet as well. Use an electric knife to cut it if you have one. Makes the job like slicing soft butter!

My customer asked me to make her a pad this week (above photo) and she had already bought the foam and cut it to size for me. If you are sewing for a customer, it is advisable that you have them do that step for you. That way, if there are any mistakes, you haven’t made them, which would cost you more.

Have the customer buy enough fabric for the project. If they have trouble figuring out how much they need, the clerks at the fabric store are usually very helpful. Keep in mind the width of the fabric in measuring. Upholstery fabric is usually 54″ wide. Don’t forget that you’ll need a thin strip of fabric to go all around the middle of the cushion as well.  If you or your customer want piping, add about 1 yard of fabric to the total. If you need 2 cushions, add about another 1/2 yard of fabric to the total for the piping. I will show you how to make piping in the next post (Part 2) 

If you want to put piping in, buy the inside cording based on measuring around the entire rectangle on top and multiply that by two because you probably want cording around the bottom edge as well. Putting cording in is not difficult, but it does add a few steps, which we will go over in the next post.

Once you have the foam cut to the desired measurements, set it aside. Now prepare the fabric to be cut. If you are using a washable fabric, and it is made of cotton, you may want to prewash your fabric before cutting it out in case it shrinks next time you wash it. You are now going to cut the top of the cushion and the bottom of the cushion out of fabric. Note what the foam measurements were and add one inch to each of those measurements. This will give you 1/2″ seam allowances all the way around.

For instance, the foam for the pad I made measured 87 1/2″ long by 14 1/2″ wide. The foam was 2″ thick. So, I needed two pieces (one for the top of the cushion and one for the bottom) that each measure 88 1/2″ by 15 1/2″ wide. Do you see that I added the one inch of fabric all the way around giving me 1/2″ seam allowance?

***Before you cut the fabric, notice if there are any patterns on the fabric that you don’t want cut off and you want to follow. In the photo above, notice that I tried to center the pattern so that I didn’t cut off the important parts of the design. It actually looks like I had 2 main designs running down the middle of the cushion. Another way I could have cut it was to put one main pattern down the center of the pad. To do this, trace the pad shape out of something clear like one or two sheets of waxed paper taped together, so you can see through it. Lay that over the top perfectly positioning the fabric underneath it. Double check your measurements before you cut.

Once you have the two main pieces cut out, you’ll want to cut the long narrow strip that goes around the cushion and covers the thickness of the foam and separates the 2 pieces you just cut, when the pad is sewn together. To get that measurement, add the 2 side measurements to the 2 end measurements. In this case add: 87 1/2 + 87 1/2 +14 1/2 + 14 1/2 = 204″. Most likely, you don’t have a length of fabric tha i s 204″, so you’ll need to cut however many pieces you’ll need so that when the segments are sewn together, they’ll make a piece long enough to fit around the middle of the pad. 

I had a piece of fabric 3 yards long (108″). I figured I needed to piece together 2 strips of fabric to equal 204″. (204 divided by 2 = 102″) So, the length of those strips when they were sewn together was 204″ But, I needed to add seam allowances, to both the length and the height of these strips before I cut the fabric. Because the foam is 2″ high, add an inch total to it (3″) and cut each strip of fabric to be 3″ x 103″.

Now you should have cut out from the fabric:

2 strips that are 3″ x 103″ and 2 rectangles that are 88 1/2″x 15 1/2″.

To see Part 2 of these instructions, please click on this link:

Thread Shank….what is that?

You probably already know how to sew on a button, (we’ll cover that right now if you don’t), but do you add a thread shank on it?

A thread shank is a way of elevating the button off of the fabric so that when you button your garment, the fabric underneath the button lays flat. This is especially important if you are buttoning thick fabric. Most heavier coats (and trousers that button at the waist) have a thread shank. Ideally, all garments should have one.

So, let’s look at how to sew on a button with a thread shank.


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As you can see, I am going to sew on a thick clay button. In this case, this button will go on a purse. Because it is a heavy button, and the loop that I will use to button it with is thick, I’ll need a thread shank.

***Here is a time saving tip: When sewing on a button, you can double the thread  and then thread the 2 cut ends through the needle at the same time. This will allow you to have a four stranded thread to put the button on with. It  will make your job go twice as fast. Just make sure you have a huge length of thread to start with (36″ might be good):


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Once you’ve threaded the needle, simply tie a knot at the end of the threads.

You’ll see that you have 2 cut ends and a loop near the knot. That’s exactly how it should look. You can cut the loop if it bothers you.

Ok, now to sew the button on.

Place the button where you need it to be and hold it there with one hand. From the back of the item you are sewing on, pierce the fabric with your needle and come up through one of the holes. Now, take your needle and go down through the other hole and pull until you don’t see any excess thread. Don’t pull tight though. (If you have a button that has four holes, come up through the third hole and go down through the fourth hole with your threaded needle). Now, before you come up through the first hole again, put a toothpick (if the button is large like mine) or a thick needle (if the button is small) through the top of the threads on the button like this:

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Do you see the thread on the toothpick? You may have to work the toothpick or the thick needle into that area a little, but you’ll get it in there. You can loosen the thread a little if you need to, that is why we didn’t pull the thread tight after we stitched the first holes. Once you get the toothpick or needle in there, keep it there while we finish sewing on the button. You’ll see why this is necessary in the next few steps.

Keep sewing on the button by coming up through a hole and then down into the other one (Work either clockwise or counter clockwise if you have more than 2 holes in the button), until you have the button sewn on securely. Also, be sure you have at least 12″ of thread left when you stop.

Keeping the toothpick (or thick needle) still in place, bring the needle up from the back (but don’t come up through a hole. Come up on the underside of the button instead.

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Do you see the thread coming out from behind the button?

Now, take the toothpick out. The toothpick has made it possible to have excess thread between the button and the fabric.

Now, wind the thread around the button between the button and the fabric. You can go either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Wrap it 5-10 times around the button. Now, take your needle and pierce the fabric next to the button and pull it through to the back of the garment or item.

Knot it several times and then take a small stitch and cut the thread off.

If you look at the item, you’ll see that the button is raised away from the garment. when the item is buttoned, this gives the fabric below the button plenty of room to sit without being squished and without looking puckered.

Good job!

How To Choose a Sewing Machine

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This is my baby. It is 26 years old this week. My Dad got it for me for my college graduation and it has never let me down.

The only thing it has needed in 26 years is a new light, some oil and a few cleanings.

Let’s discuss some factors when choosing a new machine. What do you look for? What do you want it to do? What is important to you?

Do you want to buy new or used? What is your budget?

If you’re looking to sew basic items of clothing and home decor, you probably don’t need alot of fancy stitches.

Maybe you just want to use the machine a few times a month. Maybe more.

Let’s explore a few things:

First of all, look for a machine whose bobbin winds on the top of the machine. Many machines advertise that their machine winds the bobbin in the case right below the needle and you never have to move the bobbin to another location. You can just sew right after you wind the bobbin. That sounds pretty alluring, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve sewn on many machines like that and heard from many frustrated people and the problem is that the bobbin thread tends to get all caught up in the bobbin case and the result is a huge tangled mess. Then, once you get the tangle out, which can take about half a day, it happens again. And again. And pretty soon, you don’t want to sew any more. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not your fault. It’s the machine.

Also, beware of the bobbins that unscrew in the middle. These are another source of frustration as the thread invariably gets caught in the middle area causing a bird’s nest of tangles as well.

Singer sewing machines are notorious for this. I’m not saying that all Singers are culprits, but most are like that. The very old treadle Singers don’t have that problem, but most made since about 1965 are problematic. People keep buying them because when people think of a sewing machine, they think of Singer.

My mom got a brand new Singer when I was 10, and she didn’t sew, so that meant it became my machine. It’s a wonder I ever kept sewing. Do you own a Singer? I’d love to hear from you if you have a Singer that you love. Tell me what model it is so we can promote it.

I happen to like Bernina the best. I have sewn on Viking, Pfaff, Singer and Kenmore machines (and a few other obscure brands.) I liked the Viking and Pfaff all right. They weren’t Bernina, but that’s just me. The Kenmore I have in my possession works just fine. It was my step mother’s. I am going to give it to one of our daughter’s as her first machine.

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It stitches well. It doesn’t have fancy stitches and it’s a little loud (all things I could live with), but it does have one feature I’d have to get used to: I have to hand crank the fly wheel to get the needle out of the fabric at the end of the seam. I’m not big on that, but if you’re new to sewing, you could get used to that feature if that doesn’t bother you. Maybe not all Kenmores are like that anymore. This one is pretty old. Do you have a Kenmore? Do you like it?

The Bernina I have is made entirely of metal parts. No plastic, folks. As I mentioned above, I have not had any trouble with it. I do oil it when I should and keep it free of lint, but that ‘s all the maintenance I do besides a tune up every few years where they clean the tension dials and other mundane stuff.

The interesting thing is that no matter who I take it to for the tune up, they end up begging to buy it from me. They know how good it is. I know how good it is, and there’s no way I’m going to sell it!

It has basic stitches and about 12 embroidery stitches, that I haven’t used often. It sews a great looking seam, and it’s just plain reliable. Now, the features it doesn’t have are: a built in button hole maker (I’ve done just fine without one, but it would be nice) and a buttonhole stitch (which would be nice if you want to machine buttonhole stitch on a quilt). Other than that, it’s got everything I need or want. To get those features, look for a newer model.

They began making a computerized version soon after this model. I don’t really want one as they are much higher in price and I don’t need a computerized model. If I were desigining my own quilts or embroidering designs I downloaded from the computer, then maybe. If that is what you’d like to do, check into them. I just looked at a new computerized model last year and it was nearly $10,000. I nearly fell to the floor. But that one had all the bells and whistles. It threads your needle, it cuts the thread, etc.

Bottom line, go to a dealership and test drive one first.  Try all the makes and models.  Take notes on which ones you like and why.  Ask if you can take one out on loan for a few days. Most places will let you. When I get mine serviced, they give me a loaner so I can keep my business going. If you don’t like that one, try another until you find the perfect match for you.

Out of curiosity, and knowing I was writing this post today, I got on ebay and saw that my model Bernina (930 Record) is going for $995.00 with 23 bids and 4 1/2 days left on the auction. My guess is that it will probably go for around $1200 by the end of the auction. I’ve seen them go for around $1600. It just depends on the availability at the time you are buying one.

So, look on ebay and your local Craigslist and newspaper. Check with your sewing machine shop and quilt shops in the area and ask around. It’s worth your time and perseverance to get a good machine. Think of it as an investment because you will hopefully get years and years of reliability out of it.

Do you like the machine you own now? Why or why not? I’d love to  hear about it. So would the others who read this post.