A New Summer Top

I finished this sleeveless summer top yesterday.  This is Butterick Pattern #5644,
that I made from some border print rayon purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics (www.gorgeousfabrics.com).  It has an empire waist, which is flattering on just about any body type.  It was a quick and simple pattern that went together smoothly.  The pattern calls for bias tape to finish the neckline and armholes.  I happened to have some tencel fabric that was the same color as the border of this rayon, so I cut my own bias tape.

If you need some instruction on how to make bias tape, here’s a good blog to check out: http://www.coletterie.com/fabric-haberdashery/tutorial-how-to-make-bias-tape.

This was a new pattern for me.  As you probably know, most commercial sewing patterns today come with multiple sizes in the envelope.  Usually, they are printed on the same tissue paper, with cutting, marking, and sewing lines for each different size.  Since I am pretty frugal when it comes to sewing, I very seldom cut the size I need from the tissue paper.  I mean, what if I need to make a different size, for me or for someone else?  (I’m always planning on dropping a few pounds…)  I buy pattern tissue paper, which is available in several different weights and widths, and trace the size I need from the original.

When doing this, it is important to trace the correct lines and markings.  In fact, it is so important to the success of your project, that I would suggest that beginning sewers NOT try this method.  Better to buy your patterns when Hancocks or Jo-ann Fabrics is running a great deal and just cut the size you need than take a chance on messing up your sewing project and wasting even more money and time!  But if you decide to trace your pattern, check it and then re-check it, and then re-check it again, before you cut your fabric.

The lines of this top were so straightforward and simple that I decided to try another method of saving the other sizes on my pattern tissue.  I needed the smallest size in the envelope, which included large, x-large, and xx-large.  

So I folded the straight lines on the tissue along the correct size, and for the curved lines of the sleeve and neck edge, I slashed into the tissue to the correct line, and then folded.  I didn’t use any tape to hold down the folds, because I wanted to be able to press out the folds to use a bigger size if I ever needed to.  It worked out very well, and I would use this method again with a pattern that has only a few pieces, and simple lines.

I have two more projects to finish, and then I’ll be ready for our upcoming vacation!  For now, I just need to make a date with my hubby so I can wear my new top!

Sewing Class Sign-up!

We are having a great response from people interested in our beginning sewing classes!  Thank you to all of our Facebook friends for helping us get the word out! We still have some spots open for both of our classes which start June 19.  We will be holding a morning class from 9-11:30, and an evening class from 6-9:30.

Sewing machines are provided, as well as all the tools you will need, and all of your patterns except one.

Taking Learn to Sew 101 and 102 will give you a great foundation to build on, and give you confidence in choosing future projects.

We are so excited about this, and from the response, so are a lot of other people!  Our classes are going to be loads of fun!

For information on price, to ask more questions, or to sign up, email us right away!  golden-needles@cox.net

Beginning Classes Start Soon!

Learn to Sew 101 projects

We are busy gearing up for our first classes, and are so excited!  The sewing machines arrived today, and we are unpacking them and setting them up.

We will be offering one morning class and one evening class, both beginning on June 19, and running for four weeks.  Classes are limited, and we already have students enrolling, so email us today for more information.

In the very first course, you will learn all about the sewing machine and how it works, how to read a pattern and determine fabric and notion needs, how to choose the right fabrics for your projects, and many other practical tips.  While making four different projects, you will learn to topstitch, make buttonholes, install zippers and elastic, and finish seams.

We are using Karen’s daughter Julie as our guinea pig, and she has enjoyed her first two projects.  Her apron turned out so pretty, and so did her pillow shams. She plans to use both as wedding gifts.  How special for the friends who will receive such a nice gift!

Julie models her apron!

Julie’s pair of linen pillow shams. Her mom has promised to use her embroidery machine to monogram them in white. How pretty!

If you live in the middle Georgia area, and would like more information on our beginning sewing classes, please email us at golden-needles@cox.net.

More Bells and Whistles

After sewing for years with a Singer Touch and Sew, I bought a basic Baby Lock.  (If you are interested, I wrote a little about that decision in a recent post called “An Old Friend and a New One.”)  But I knew when I bought my basic Baby Lock that I would be looking for something else in the not-too-distant future with a few more features.

So, one of my main purposes at the Original Sewing and Quilting Expo in Atlanta a couple of months ago was to look at every sewing machine on display, and decide which one would best suit my needs.  I was on a mission.  I tried Brother machines, Bernina, Viking, Janome, Juki, Baby Lock, and Pfaff.  I skipped the machines with embroidery capabilities; I didn’t want to spend the money required for a feature that I knew I would hardly ever use.

A funny thing happened when I got to the Brother booth and sat down to do a test-drive on their “Project Runway” model.  I felt like I had just sat down at home in front of my Baby Lock “Grace.”  The guy in the booth told me that Baby Lock sewing machines are made by Brother, and that my Grace and this machine were basically one in the same.  Alrighty, then.

But I was looking for more bells and whistles than what I had at home, so I moved on to the higher-end Brother machines.  After a morning of learning about a myriad of features on every brand at the expo, I narrowed it down to a Pfaff model and a Juki model.  I was really impressed with the Juki company, and with their well-made machines, but in the end the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.0 won me over.  I bought it, put my boxed-up brand new treasure in my car, and then headed for Nashville with my family for my niece’s wedding.  (I’m trying to forgive her for making me cut my expo weekend short…)

After a really wonderful weekend in Music City, I unloaded my new machine as soon as I got home, set it up in my studio, and got out the all-important owner’s manual.  Almost three months later, I’m still pulling out the manual and learning new things.

While I am not a quilter, at times I need to be able to sew through a thick layer of fabrics without worrying about skipped stitches or stalled-out feed.  But I also want to be able to sew thin, delicate silks smoothly and accurately.  My new Pfaff has not let me down.  The IDT (integrated dual feed) system has been key.  It is a built-in option that is ready to go with one pull on the IDT, which stays tucked away when you don’t need it.

My Pfaff has a beautiful and reliable stitch.  Threading it and making bobbins is a breeze.  You can even make a bobbin through the needle, if if runs out in the middle of a project.  (This is the best news for someone who used a Singer Touch and Sew, with that fantastic automatic bobbin winder, for more than three decades!)  The buttonhole attachment, which I used for the first time last week, works like a dream and makes beautiful buttonholes.   So my old Touch and Sew, which I had set up with a treasured special attachment to use for making buttonholes after I bought my Baby Lock, is becoming more and more obsolete in my studio.

Other features I love are the automatic reverse, the automatic thread snips, and the pivot-height option on the presser foot.  There are so many more options I have not yet tried.  My Pfaff has a large graphic screen to display all the programmed info for a chosen stitch, and there are more than 200 decorative and utilitarian stitches.  I used number 49 this morning to create a decorative bartack to reinforce a pocket seam.

I would recommend this machine to anyone who sews a lot.  Although it is called “Quilt Expression,” it is not just for quilters.  Those of us who love to sew clothes need this type of versatility.  I don’t do much home decor sewing, but this Pfaff would be perfect for those who do, because of the same great features that make it so wonderful for fashion sewers and for quilters.

Okay, enough blogging.  I’ve got a lot of sewing to do!

A Very Special Silk Dress

A couple of years ago, I bought some beautiful pieces of an old Japanese kimono from one of the vendors at the annual Original Sewing and Quilting Expo, an event held every spring in Atlanta that I try not to miss.  This vendor has the most gorgeous vintage silk fabrics that she groups together.  None of the pieces are big enough for an entire garment, but I knew I would eventually find something special to do with the pieces I purchased.

When my niece announced her engagement, and plans began to form for a spring Nashville wedding, I pulled my kimono silk out and started playing with it, draping it on my dress form to look at the kimono fabric with some black silk.  My daughter would need something pretty to wear, and this would be the perfect starting point.

I bought Tracy Reese Vogue pattern #1190, because I liked the general silhouette of it.  But I left off the front ruffle, and since my daughter wanted the back of the bodice to be “regular” rather than the style shown, I drafted a plainer version.  I used the kimono fabric for the bodice front and back, and a soft washed silk charmeuse in black for the skirt.  The tiny waist band was cut from a piece of kimono silk in a deep navy, one of the other pieces from the grouping I bought in Atlanta.

Because I wanted everything to be just right when I cut this vintage silk fabric, I made a muslin for the trial bodice to tweak the fit.  When my daughter and I were both satisfied with it, I used that as my pattern to cut the kimono fabric.  I then sized the skirt pieces to fit the bodice, and cut them out of the black charmeuse.

Vogue pattern #1190

The dress went together like a dream!  (I love sewing with good quality silk!)

I also made her a necklace and earrings to go with her dress.  I bought the glass necklace focal component three or four years ago at an art gallery in Destin, Florida.  The necklace and earrings are fashioned from Swarovski crystal beads.  The wedding was beautiful, and so much fun, and my daughter was beautiful in her very special silk dress!

Shelley trying on her new dress

Sterling, glass, and Swarovski crystal necklace

The Big Book!

Fabric swatches and details in my "Big Book"

Fabric swatch pages in my “Big Book”

Copies of pattern envelopes

Copies of pattern envelopes in my “Big Book”

A while back, after buying yet another pattern I already had, I decided to get organized.  Now, I know there are all kinds of apps for my smart phone that will keep up with pattern information, but until they make an app that will let me post swatches of my fabric–swatches that I can actually touch–I am sticking with my old school “Big Book.”  So, just in case you are looking for a way to organize your patterns and fabric samples in one place, let me tell you how I did it.  Feel free to be a copycat.  Better yet, leave me a note if you have done something similar, and give all of us some pointers.

I bought a large, sturdy three ring binder, some divider pages with write-on tabs, and white copy paper pre-punched with three holes.  Then I hauled out all of my patterns–and I do mean ALL.  I decided that if it was worth holding on to, it was worth a place in my book.  I separated them into categories, such as “tops,” “jackets,” “pants and skirts,” “dresses.”  You get the idea.  I recorded these titles with a pen on the tab pages.  Then I copied the front and back of every pattern I owned. To save money and space in my book, I copied the front of the pattern in color, then flipped that same sheet over to print the back of the pattern in black ink.  Some of the envelopes were flat enough for my flat bed printer that I didn’t have to remove the contents, but some of them were too thick.  I was careful to not get in too big of a hurry, so that I could be sure to get the pattern pieces back into the right envelope.  This all took some time, but now when I go to the fabric store, I take my Big Book, which holds everything I need to know about what patterns I have and their fabric and notions requirements.

Behind the pattern sections, I put my fabric swatch pages.  I used my computer’s word processor to design a simple page that would hold four swatches and information on them.  I printed these on both sides of some light gray card stock that I already had on hand, and used a three-ring punch on them so they could go in my book.

I cut fabric swatches approximately 2 x 3 inches, and stapled them onto the card stock.  You can see this in the picture at the top of this post.  In the information blanks, I recorded how much of the swatch fabric I had, whether or not it had been pre-washed, the width and the content of the fabric, and the source and cost.  All of this was recorded in pencil, so that when I use a portion of the fabric or when I pre-wash something, I can change the information I recorded earlier.  If I use it all, I just strike through the information.  But I leave the swatch.  I figured that in a few years, it might be fun to see all of those swatches that (hopefully) became garments.

I have a basket in my sewing studio, just inside the entrance, that holds any newly acquired fabric or patterns until I have had the chance to record them in my book.

“The Book” is quite large and heavy, but it’s worth the effort of lugging it to the fabric store.  Even if I haven’t planned a trip to a fabric store, it usually stays in my car because I never know when I might need all of the vital information it holds!

An Old Friend and a New One


Until 2010, I used the same Singer Touch and Sew sewing machine since I received it as a high school graduation gift in (gulp!) 1974.  I was seventeen when my parents presented me with this long-time companion, which was actually slightly used when I got it, and I was thrilled.  Up until then, I had been sewing on an old off-brand machine that smelled like burning oil every time I used it.  And yet, I sewed miles of seams on it.  Other than making my bedroom smell like an auto repair shop, it was reliable.  It got the job done.

But this new beauty had lots of options.  It came with a box of cams–little black hard plastic discs with patterned edges–which allowed me to choose all kinds of decorative and utilitarian stitches.  I mostly switched between the zig zag disc and the one for a blind hem stitch.  But the very best thing about this machine, and every other Touch and Sew, was that fabulous push-button bobbin.  The little plastic bobbin with uneven sides didn’t hold much thread at the time, but that was of little consequence since rewinding was a breeze.  Slide open the throat plate, push a button, wind the thread around the presser foot screw, and step on the pedal.  You didn’t have to unthread the machine at all!  I have really often wondered why that wonderful feature was not carried into other lines and brands of machines; that single feature is what kept me from moving to a more modern machine for years.

A small crisis led to the purchase of a new machine.  I was in the middle of a time-sensitive project, and the timing went out on my old Singer.  (The plastic gears in all of the Touch and Sews have a limited lifespan!) I was hoping that it could be quickly repaired, but as I drove to my local sewing machine store, I knew better.  I left my Singer for repair, and drove back home with a brand new basic Baby Lock named Grace.  (Yep, that name is displayed right on the front; a nice reminder of what I need and what I should offer to everyone around me every time I sit down to sew!)  I already had a Baby Lock serger, which I loved, so this sewing machine seemed a safe choice.  I deliberately stayed away from the top-of-the-line machines, because I had done no research to find out what I really wanted.  But for a little over $300, I acquired Grace, and she and I got along just fine.  I finished my project in record time.

After my Singer had been repaired, I set it up with the add-on buttonhole attachment, which is about as old the Touch and Sew itself.  It has sized templates that drop in the back of the contraption for a perfect buttonhole.  I love that thing so much that when I wore out my first one, I found another one on Ebay.  I ordered it in the hopes that the previous owner had not racked up as many hours on it as I had on mine, and so far, so good.  So now, when I need to make a set of buttonholes, I thread the right color on the Touch and Sew, and I’m ready to go.  Old habits are hard to break!