I can see! I can see!

First, please don’t leave pissy comments about vendors on my blog anonymous or otherwise.  Don’t be an ass.

Over a year ago, a blog reader (whose name I don’t remember. Sorry, because you desrve the credit) told me about the pink Task Lamp from OTT. They were always on sale at Joann.com and of course you could use a coupon on them. At the time,  I didn’t want to spend the money. Well, last week I ordered one because, well. I’ve turned into my mother.

You see, when I was a kid, my mom would have me thread her hand sewing needles for her. I had no idea the time would come when I would be booed up next to a HD lamp so I could see to trace patterns and thread needles. If there was a small child in my house, I would just go ahead and ask them to thread for me.

Now that I sew in my basement, the light isn’t good. I’ve been stuggling with tracing the last few months as there is very little natural light in my basement. I have three bulbs in my overhead light and it’s just not enough for tracing my Burdas.

The lamp honestly makes a WORLD of difference. It makes things significantly brighter. It’s also wonderful for figuring out if that dark fabric is more blue than black. And, before you ask. Yes, it does come in colors that aren’t pink :)

They are $40 now at Joann.com and when I purchased shipping was free. If I could afford it, I would get the floor lamp too just to keep by my sewing machine.

Now, if only I could find that Jules IKEA chair I wanted in pink, and not in juniors. I think they must have discontinued it….

So, that’s what it’s good for!

My kidney shaped pressing ham was very useful tonight. It’s perfect for pressing that hard to reach crotch curve.

Which means that yes, after two hours and multiple trips from the computer in the basement to my sewing room on the second floor, I made a fly front.

The Sandra Betzina video is in fact good. I somehow still don’t quite have it right. I should have added some width to the fly extension. But, practice will make perfect.

Marking the fly was super easy with my little template. Debbie Cook pointed out on her blog during her Best Jeans Ever week, that you can also use the zipper packet. Who knew? This template has a 1″ and 1-1/4″ marking. There were two. I now have one. I bought them about 10 years ago. Yikes. Do you remember that weird feeling when you could first remember 10 years ago?

I’m also adding a lining to these pants although the pattern doesn’t call for it. It was easier to construct than the pant! To make a lining for these, just eliminate the pocket and attach the yoke to the pant leg.

Ok. I’m going to look for the other template now. That’s going to drive me crazy.

If you bought some of the striped rain coat fabric last week, you know it says ‘dry clean only’ Leslie has done a little pre-wash of fabric samples to see what happens to it with home care. I am grateful for this as I was was too stingy to give up any of my four yards for a test before I knew what I was doing with it.

I think I love my Serger Part 2: The Elasticator

Here’s what I’ve been ironing on the last three months. Yeah, just the thin poly batting on the ironing board. How did I get to this point? What happened to my cover? Well, let me tell you.

Last year I bought the European Ironing board (like the link but for way less and with a gift card ) from Target. I thought it would be great to have the increased pressing space, iron rest and the pull out sleeve board. European readers, are your ironing boards actually this big or have I fallen for an American marketing ploy? This one is about 18 inches wide and 55 inches long.

After a few months the ironing board cover was sticky with interfacing resin and yellow with waxy tailor’s chalk. I washed it and it promptly shrank in half — in addition to shredding. When I went online to look for a new cover, I saw they cost over $30. Pshaw.

I read in one of the Singer Sewing Reference Library books that wool batting was a great pressing surface because it retains heat and steam well. A quick search for wool batting took me to Stitcher’s Guild where I read this interesting post. One poster said an old wives’s trick was to use old Army or wool blankets as the padding for a pressing surface. (Ooooh!! The entire lot of Singer books on eBay right now and here.)

I first asked my mom The Colonel for her old blanket and she told me she had to turn it in at retirement or get charged for it. My dad still works on an Army post and he picked up a US Army blanket for me (new). 65 percent new wool, 35 percent reprocessed wool, olive green and made in Rhode Island for about $35 dollars. You can also get them at hunting and camping stores too or find them used.

I used the original thin poly batting as a guide and added about a one inch seam allowance. You’ll be shocked to know that even the batting had shrunk since the original purchase.

I then used the blanket to cut the cover, adding another inch, from some $1 a yard twill cotton from Joann.

Why do I think I love my serger? I used this foot called an elasticator. This foot applies pressure to the elastic — stretching it as it stitches.

So I was able to stitch the elastic to the cover and have a neat edge when I was done. This was my first time using it. I think I like it! Seems like this is what I would want for sewing up a swimsuit or lingerie.

Here it is on. It’s much thicker than my previous cover and quite frankly a lot prettier. Those Europeans really are on to something.

And here’s how it looks underneath.

I’m pretty pleased! I will be making another one eventually. The fabric I used isn’t the greatest quality. I’d like to use a sturdier canvas. But, this was perfectly fine for a test run.

All told, it took me about 30 mins. The wool is great. It’s already washed and kind of felted to it’s washing machine safe. Plus, I have enough wool left over for two more ironing board pads should the need arise.

I Think I Love My Serger Part I: Piping Foot

Four things that saved my buttonhole life

I am not good with math. And I don’t mean that in the “Oh, hee, hee. I’m just a silly girl and I’m not good with numbers. hee. hee. I like chocolate. hee. hee.” I mean that in the slight panic I fall into when asked to figure out something that involves numbers. I’m ok with that. I’m plenty good at other things. I just double check everything and speak slowly when giving answers.

But, this not being great with math has been a bit of a struggle when it comes to figuring out my buttonhole placement. I’m horrible at working out these things. i.e. “OK. I have 10 inches of center front, 7 buttonholes to make that are vertical and buttons that are 3/8 inch long, how much space do I need in between each one?” It’s one of the things that kept my away from woven blouses because the buttons never came out straight or where I wanted them!

Enter four simple things that changed my buttonhole life.

#1. Actually marking the center front and fold line. Yeah, that’s right. I used to just eyeball it.

#2.. Not marking the actual buttonhole placement from the pattern. Now, I mark my bust point (is that the right word?). This is where the fronts cross over my bust and would gape if not for a button. From there, I use #3

#3. The SimFlex buttonhole or sewing gauge. There are no words for how much I love this thing. Just figure out how many buttonholes you need and open the gauge. The gauge will spread and you can mark the remainder of your buttonholes equidistant. For the current blouse, I marked all the ‘middle’ buttonholes.

#4. Next, I read in the Bishop Method of Clothing Construction that to mark my button placement, line up the front of the blouse wrong side to wrong side.

For horizontal buttonholes, place the pin all the way to the right.

Mark on the right side of the button side.

Attach buttons (ok, this is the sleeve cuff not the front I’ve been showing. I was sewing 1.5 inch buttonholes down the front of the blouse at 1:00 a.m. I just had to make myself stop. Buttons can get done later.)

And lest ye think I’ve forgotten about the dress formerly known as the Panama Dress, I haven’t. But, it’s in UFO waters. I had an invisible zipper in, but it broke. I now need to put in a regular zipper (piping was too much for invisible zip) with a center application. I haven’t done that since 1994. And it’s winter. So, it might wait until I can actually wear it. Or I get up my nerve to tackle a center zip.

Looks sad doesn’t it, just hanging there wanting to move from the door knob to the closet.

I’m still working on the blog re-design. It’s not quite where I want it, but getting closer.


Before I begin, let me say I am by no means a construction expert. I learn about sewing every day and devour sewing books like Mrs. PacMan. But, I thought it might be kind of interesting to show you my pressing hams. If you find this interesting, might I suggest you listen to the Sew Forth Now Podcast with Ann of Gorgeous Things? Seriously… listening to it made me want to iron.

Just this week I completed my pressing ham collection. Yes. Completed. I’ve had a seam roll and 6×9 Dritz pressing ham for about four years now– bought on one of those “50 percent off the notion wall” weekends at Joanns.

But, I never really knew there were more hams until a post by Els at the Sewing Divas (I am still obsessed with that press buck!). A few months later I picked up the Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing and read about the difference between a dressmaker’s ham and a tailor’s ham.

The author suggests you ask for them at the notions counter of your favorite department store. Mmmmhhhhhmmm. Nordstrom will get right on that. Those must have been the days!

Dressmaker ham on the left, tailor ham on the right

Some of the oldest professional pressing supplies were only recently available to home sewers. These are the tailor’s cushions or pressing hams. A medium dressmaker’s ham for dressmaking details, such as pressing the proper curve under a bust dart, or shrinking the top of a set-in sleeve cap; and a larger tailor’s ham (‘professional size’) for tailoring details, such as pressing the proper roll in a collar or label. — Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

I think both hams can serve your purpose, just the larger size of the tailor’s ham let’s you accomodate a larger collar, bigger darts, larger seams…..

Seam roll is shaped more like a sausage than a ham and is useful for pressing inside sleeves, pant legs, elbow darts, zipper plackets and long narrow curved seams. –Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

June Tailor Ham Holder (which holds all these hams very well)

Els’ post got me hooked on getting a ham holder. I found myself needing a hand to hold my ham in the right position. And when your iron weighs five pounds, you need both hands to work with the iron. Happily, my June Tailor Contoured Dressmaker’s ham and ham holder came together.

Contoured dressmaker’s ham is used for pressing/shaping shaped areas e.g. darts, and shoulder areas — June Tailor Method of Custom Detail Pressing

Back in September Dawn posted about making a collar. She had it pinned to a contoured ham and until then, I’d never seen one in my life.

These hams are packed with dry, hardwood dust and covered with wool so the steam penetrates the fabric more readily. Also, wool against wool helps avoid unwanted shine. — Dritz Guide to Modern Sewing

Now for beginner sewers. Please don’t think you need to have all these hams in order to sew. I just started using a ham in the last few years and only recently acquired the remainder off of eBay. That being said, I looked for new hams as my sewing skill increased and I recognized the need for more versatility. I also love vintage items and things like these are fairly cheap on eBay. I might have spent $25 not including S&H for the contoured, large ham, ham holder and larger seam roll.

BTW, there are several Traum tracing wheels on eBay right now.

Finally, I owe some back pedaling on yesterday’s Knip Mode post. I said that American patterns do not have the level of detail as the European magazines. That’s not entirely true. There are patterns that have that kind of detail (especially Vogue as they have RTW designers) and they certainly walk you through the construction process better :).

Tracing really isn’t that bad

Thank you for the compliments on this weekend’s knit jumper! Party was a lot of fun and the dress was very warm and comfy.

I now realize my goal in life is to turn new people on to Burda World of Fashion. It’s a mighty task that the sewing gods have entrusted me with, but I feel that I am up for it and must rise to the challenge. Why? Because the more you sewists get addicted to BWOF, the less likely it will ever go out of production (unlike Blueprint Magazine which Christina let me know last week was ceasing production. I swear Martha Stewart wants me to fight her.)

There are two things that seem to turn people off the Burda World of Fashion. The first is the sparse directions and the second is having to trace out the pattern. A good book will help you with the first, but I thought I could show you one of methods I use to trace and add seam allowances.

Over the years I’ve picked up two handy tools. One is this Clover double tracing wheel. I’ve seen it as cheap as $4. The second is a vintage Traum Tracing Wheel (with Seam Guide). *** ETA: When I posted this eBay link there were five Traums for less than $5. It seems that only the $20 one is now available. Hold out for the less expensive one! The first was a Joann purchase, the second came free — stuffed in my sewing machine table!

First, trace your pattern size. I have two traced here because I want to blend the 38 and 40 at the thigh.

Now, I’ll show you how I use the Clover double tracing wheel. After you trace your pattern, pin the pattern to your fabric. Then, follow the seam line with your double tracing wheel. The wheel will put a nicely dotted line along the pattern paper — delivering an easy to follow cutting line. Now, the wheel is adjustable by 1/4 increments. So, the natural seam allowances are 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 inch. But, I found that a slight bend to one wheel and it easily makes a perfect 5/8 seam allowance.

The second one (comes with an orange or pink handle, in case you are interested) has two lines. One is 1/2 inch the second is 5/8 inch. It’s not quite as accurate or easy to handle as the Clover, but it works well. And, it leaves a ‘stronger’ marking. It was originally intended to mark the seam line on patterns when they weren’t printed.

I know there is a rotary cutter with a seam guide available. But, I still cut with scissors. I just kind of like the way it feels. I will use a rotary cutter for knits sometimes.

This little project is a pair of yoga pants from the November BWOF in an icy pale blue stretch velour (the fabric on the left). I’m not really a Juicy kind of girl, but I fell in love with the color. I might make a matching top over Christmas. We’ll see how I feel about the pants!

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Spinster Who Sews

Can I complain for a moment before I show you the good and the bad of the sewing today?

When I walked into a party tonight, I was introduced by the host to an older woman. The woman said, “How come a nice young woman like you is here by herself?” I smile politely not really having a reply and she says, “You must be doing something to keep the men away.” Umm, right. That must be it. I excuse myself for some sangria.

I am later introduced to the newish boyfriend of a friend. He says, “You’re not what I was expecting.” I ask him what he was expecting and he says,

“I heard you were 30, single and made your own clothes and just figured you must be a hag.”

I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere.


On to the sewing.

After seeing all these cool welt pockets on the blogs the last two days, I thought I would whip out an eBay find from last year. The Dritz Bound Buttonholer.

Here’s what I got the first time out:

It’s not as good as Tany‘s. But, I’m a girl who loves her gadgets! Plus, this was my first attempt ever (I didn’t use any interfacing either). Makes me kinda want the double welt pocket maker that Clothilde has (pockets up to six inches in length).

The item has been discountinued but there is one on eBay now. I also think you could use the pocket maker mentioned above to make bound buttonholes.


The jacket is coming along. The pockets are so stinking cool with the little tab and all. Hmmm, should have changed the grain direction of the tab. That would be perfect.

The triangle facing, not so cool. I don’t know what happened here. And I honestly don’t know if I feel like fixing it.

I could just make it straight across the bottom. I could also redraft the bottom to correct the off center point. Or I could just leave it alone and tell myself no one (but you all) will notice.

I love sleeves that are supposed to have tucks and gathers. Can all my tops have this please?

So now you’re ready to sew….

I recently bought a sewinng notion off eBay that came with all the leftovers from the seller’s sewing stock. There was a cool ad / catalouge of Dritz items from the 50s of 60s.

“There’s a DRITZ SEWING AID for every task”

My favorite thing, that I would like to get for me mom is the Dritz Sewing Tray which holds 20 large or small thread spool and matching bobbins. Has accomodations for tape measure, scissors, chalk, buttons, etc. Now, if only I could also get it for $1.00.

Oh, I’ve also found the book “Modern Sewing” on eBay. I’m tempted to get it just to see what’s in there.

Oddly enough, I have most of the notions they are selling either from eBay or because they are still in production.

I’m still using the PATTERN CUTTING BOARD. I bought this back when the only place in my small Annapolis apartment to cut out patterns was my bed or the hallway. I got the Dritz BOUND BUTTONHOLE MAKER from eBay after a PR Review. I’ve go the EZY-HEM GAUGE from Joann’s. The SEE THRU marker came with my sewing cabinet. I’ve got my own PRESSING HAM and SLEEVE BOARD.

The SEE THRU marker came with my sewing cabinet. I’ve got my own PRESSING HAM and SLEEVE BOARD.

Next is a point presser, pounding block, tailor board and clapper. I should have looked for them in NYC this weekend, but I figured it would be a required sewing supply when I take a tailoring class next year.