Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas for Sewers and Crafters.

Although this blog is connected to a real physical shop it is not about selling things. The mission statement at Fabric8 is to inspire and this blog is an extension of this philosophy. Over the last year I've blogged about the textile industry as well as tutorials for sewing projects and ideas to help you enjoy your sewing more. We are here to help and not just to sell. However this Saturday I helped serve several people looking for gifts for friends who sewed. And so I thought I'd share the advice I gave them here today.

  To me the greatest gifts are gifts that keep on giving. in the case of sewers, knitters and crafters this can mean some tools that make the task of creating easier and more of a joy. There are many tools that make our lives easier but which we always put off buying for ourselves.

  A classic item that can be of great use to the sewing and crafting fanatic is a good quality pair of scissors or shears.  The two typical sorts of scissors are the hard grip and soft flexi grips. As to which is best I think it boils down to personal taste.  Left handed  scissors  are a perfect gift for south paws.

If you are buying scissors then I have to recommend embroidery scissors. These are not only better for needle point and cutting threads close to the fabric but they also help make your larger scissors last longer. If you use regular scissors to snip lose threads you will wear a blunt patch into the blades. Using a pair of embroidery snips for this purpose will make your main scissors last years longer.

 Pinking shears are another tool we often are guilty of trying to make do without. The sharp zig zag pattern provided by pinking shears is not only decorative.  Fabric is less likely to fray when cut with pinking shears, making them the perfect tool for projects such as bunting. 

If you have a friend who is an all round crafty person then they'd love a magnifying daylight lamp. The daylight simulation bulb of the Purelite lamp  helps the cunning crafter select the correct colour threads or work close up without straining their eyes. Useful not just for sewers and quilters but also card makers beaders and cross switchers or any hobbies and crafts.

You really don't need to spend much money at all to give a thoughtful gift. Many sewers make do with one colour of Tailors chalk. Having multiple colours can make marking out a pattern much easier by letting  you select a different colour for different features, such as doing darts in blue, pockets n red etc. at only £3.83 this little pack of 4 colours of chalks makes a great little stocking filler.

 An interesting item is the quilter's block viewer. This handy little gadget can give  you a sneak preview of how an entire quilt will look based on just one small section.

So there are a few examples of gifts for your sewing friends  Of course you don't have to spend money to give great gifts, you can make something personal and heart felt. Just check out the tutorials on our blogs such as;

Kindle Cover
Carrier bag holder
Harem Pants
Pirate Shirt
and for your geek friends Custom made reusable cable ties.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Ribbon & Cinnamon Decoration and Christmas Card Holder.

Love it or Loathe it, you can't ignore Christmas. I realized the other day that I'm normally a lot happier this time of year. I sat down and looked at what was wrong and it came to me. I have more work to do than time to do it, and less money than I'd like to spend at Christmas. It occurred to me that I can't be the only one thinking the same.  Therefore I decided to experiment and come up with some decorations that were festive and yet quick and cheap to make. This would allow me and  anyone else in the same boat to have a hand crafted personalized Christmas, without spending too much time or money.  I thought about Ribbon. Ribbon is cheap and plentiful at this time of year. Not only is it inexpensive to buy but many people have plenty spare in their homes. The other advantage of ribbon is it comes in many styles and patterns, allowing you to make a truly unique ornament  which could also me a nice early gift to someone.

For the Cinnamon decorations you will need
Cinnamon Sticks
Elastic Bands

For the Christmas Card Holder you will need;
paper clips (or sticky tape)
Cinnamon sticks decorations.
This simple decoration is my homage to the yule log symbolizing warmth and comfort. Cinnamon sticks can be often found very cheaply at oriental supermarkets.

Bundle the cinnamon sticks together. Things are a lot easier if you hold them in place with elastic bands.  I used Dalchini Sticks which are very thick.

You can simply tie  the ribbon around the sticks and pull it into a bow. Then hang or rest the sticks into your tree. This also can give an artificial tree a warm subtle scent.

You can hem the ribbon first by folding the ends over double and top stitching in place.

Smaller cinnamon sticks give a more delicate looking decoration.

Christmas Card Holder

Christmas Cards always help a room feel festive, however finding space for them all can be a struggle.
For the cost of a piece of ribbon and a few minutes you can have a custom made card holder.

I find Grosgrain Ribbon works best

To begin with take some ribbon, about 3 times longer than the Card holder needs to be. Pleat the ribbon along it's length, make the pleats around 1.5 cm deep.

Stitch the pleats in pl;ace with a singe row of stitching down the middle.

Take a paper clip and slip it into one of the pleats

Slide a Christmas Card under the paper clip so it's held in place

Add more cards as you receive them and just pin or otherwise fasten the card holder in place.

The pleated detail of the ribbon does add a festive charm to this little project

I chose brown to match my sofa  but red, gold or green would look fantastic.

For more idea on festive projects and amazing wrapping ideas check out this fantastic blog I found today.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Making a Waistcoat and adding functional pockets.

Anyone who has seen me enjoying my work at the Colchester  branch of Fabric8 will realize I LOVE my waistcoats. As a close up performer I tend to wear them a lot (and at the last count I had well over 30). My friends  and I have been asked to help Headway a charity that helps people with brain injuries. They are holding a Dickensian style ball and need some entertainment, all performers to be sporting Victorian attire. Naturally I'm always set for such an eventuality, but two of my friends need waistcoats. A lot of customers in the shop have said they want to have a go at making a waistcoat but have never followed a pattern to make a garment before. So behold, a step by step guide to following Simplicity 4762, with a few tips and tricks I have developed and functional pockets. I'll be making two double breasted waistcoats with collars. The pattern has no pockets for this version, but I'm planning on adding them anyway. A few things to note. Patterns include a seam allowance of 5/8th of an inch. Just take your time when sewing, make sure to enjoy the creative process. You don't HAVE to add pockets but I think they're worth the trouble. Try making one up on some scrap fabric if you're uncertain. Finally this waistcoat is for a man (well Chap) The construction for women's waistcoats follow the same principles though, you just need to get the right pattern.

You will need
Simplicity Pattern 4762 (or other pattern)
Fabric for the front of the waistcoat (in my case 1.1 metres)
Lining (and back) (I used Duchess Satin)
Fusible Interfacing 1.5 metres
4 buttons
belt buckle for the back

'Carbon' paper

Step one

Measure your subject and decide which size you need. Next check which pattern pieces you need for your project. Most patterns are both multi sized and have different options, for example this pattern  has four different styles of waistcoat to choose from.  

Cut  along the line indicated for the required size. 
You will see little triangles pointed in on the pattern. These are notch marks and are used to align your pattern pieces. DO NOT cut into the pattern piece  Instead cut a triangle on the OUTSIDE of the notch, as seen below. 

Step Two
Lay the pattern pieces according to the guide with the pattern. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric keeping both the pattern and the fabric as flat as possible. 

The pattern pieces will tell you how many pieces you need to cut and of what. You will notice you need something called Fusible Interfacing. Interfacing adds body and rigidity. Fusible interfacing is an interfacing that bonds to the WRONG side of the fabric using the heat from an iron. 

Step Three
Apply interfacing. In this case to the collars and the front of the waistcoat. I'm also adding pockets to my waistcoat (using the pattern pieces provided for one of the styles). I like to pre-wash my interfacing in cold water (just swirl it around in the sink and then hanging  it to  to dry, it dries really fast). Interfacing has a heat reactive glue on it which can muck up an ironing board if any gets on it. For this reason I keep some clean cotton to place on my board to protect it. Set  your iron onto setting 2 and place the front panel onto the board right side down. Iron out any creases and then place the interfacing panel onto the wrong side of the waistcoat front. The glue side is slightly shiny, this is the side to put onto the wrong side of the fabric. Place a damp cloth over everything and gently iron from the centre out, holding the iron for 12 seconds at a time. If you think the fabric will stretch out of shape try applying the interfacing BEFORE cutting out the pattern piece. 

Step Four.
Mark out the darts onto the front of the waistcoat. There are a few different ways of marking out where the darts are. Some people use tailors tacks, others marking with pins. I find using a pattern tracing wheel and carbon paper (or other colored marking paper) makes this process much faster.  

Slide the paper between the pattern and the front of the waistcoat. Using a ruler to guide you push the wheel along the lines for the darts.

At the widest part of the dart slide a pin from one side of the line to another
Bring the pointy end of the pin back to the first side of the fabric. Repeat along the length of the dart. Stitch the dart into place. 

Step Five 
Stitch the collar pieces together along the outer curve and the top, right sides together. Clip the curve as shown (click on the picture for a bigger view). Normally it's best to press the seam allowance  towards the lining side. However in the case of the red velvet waistcoat I'm doing the opposite  This will give the collars a white satin trim. Stitch to the waistcoat front as shown on the pattern. 

Step Six
Adding pockets is much simpler than people think. As a fan of pocket watches I think it's well worth he effort to create a functional pocket.
Begin by cutting out and interfacing the pocket WELTS. Fold in half, right sides together and press
Next stitch down the sides of the welts using a 3/8" or 1 cm seam. Clip the corners
My Point Turner only £1.80 

Turn the welt right side out using a point turner. You CAN use a pair of rounded scissors but more often than not you'll just damage the the fabric and not get a clean corner either. I can't recommend these things enough. Now press the welts again. I HIGHLY recommend a PRESSING CLOTH. Again these are relatively inexpensive to buy and give you a far more professional finish. There are chemically impregnated to disperse the heat evenly. It will stop the corners of the pockets scorching  I recommend using a pressing cloth whenever pressing the RIGHT SIDE of your waistcoat. 
Make the "pocket bag"  as shown. It is narrow in the centre (it will  eventually be folded in half to form the pocket. Don't make it too deep as your pocket watch chain may be pulled too tight. 
Mark out where your welt will be (along the dart by the waist). Set it so the short vertical sides are laying straight up, the lower end near the front of the waistcoat, the higher end near the side of the waistcoat. Draw a faint line along the bottom of the welt then flip the welt so the rough unseen side is now on this line. Top stitch in place. 

Place the pocket bag over the welt, right side down. Align it so the narrow centre of the pocket is just above where you have sewn the welt into place. place a pin just on the inside of each welt and two more to hold the pocket bag in place as you flip the waistcoat front right side down. 

Sew a rectangular box just above the stitching for the welt using the pins either side of the welt as a guide to make sure it's not too wide. The bottom of this box should just sew over the seam allowances of the welt, the top of the box should only be sewing the pocket back to the waistcoat. Flip the waistcoat front right side up again and cut a line through the middle of the box you've just sewn, push the pocket bag through this hole in it's middle. 

Right sides together sew the bag shut.

Place two strips of interface either side of the pocket and press into place. These stop the front of the waistcoat creasing by the pocket (a little tip I worked out years ago) 

The front of the waistcoat should now look like this. Fold the welt up over the hole and press into place (using a pressing cloth). Make sure the pocket bag is UNDER the welt before top stitching the welt into place (you don't want to sew through the pocket bag as well, yep I've done that) 

Behold the finished pocket. This may seem complicated and drawn out but it's actually simple once you've given it a go. You always feel really good when being able to slide your pocket watch or other bit and bobs into a pocket you made yourself.
Step Seven 
The hard work is done :) Right sides together sew one back panel to another, repeat for the lining

Right sides together sew the front sections to the back at the shoulders.

Repeat for the lining.

Pin the outer side of the waistcoat and the lining right sides together along the armholes, bottom of the back, the front bottom, sides and neck. Basically everywhere BUT the sides.  Stitch in place, clip corners and press towards the lining side. 

Now put your hand into the back open side and reach through to the front of the waistcoat and pull it right side out. You're almost there. Pin the side outer fabric to the back outer fabric, lining up the seam and notches as shown. Leave the back and front lining alone at this pint. Try to the pin a little of the back and front linings together either side of the side seam and stitch in lace. repeat for the other side. Now all that remains is to check it on your model for fit and add the buttons and button holes and slip stitch the inner sides shut as these are non structural I've been known to use instant hemming tape (wonder web) for this :)

And there you have it. A quick walk through on waistcoat construction. Hopefully this guide along with the pattern will encourage you to give it a go yourself, perfect for magicians, steam punks and people who just want to look sophisticated :) 

Friday, 9 November 2012

A thrifty and easy Christmas Bauble

We are now getting into November, from this point I start feeling very Christmasy. Last year I made up a Christmas Tree shaped table decoration following a pattern. I had intended to do the same for some fabric Christmas Baubles. However most commercial patterns required a polystyrene  ball of an exact size, and then limited your choice of fabrics to felts. They also required a lot of spray gluing  Spray glue and me  do not get on. As a result I sat down and created my own template and instructions for a Christmas Bauble.

 You will need:
Fabric (around 20cm by 40cm)
Thread Snips
Small piece of ribbon
Toy Stuffing

Print out and cut out the template (click on the image to get a high quality image, and then save and print, MS paint or any other basic paint package can shrink or expand it to the size you want, this one is 15 cm long)
 Cut out 6 pattern pieces per bauble. You can make them all the same or use a mixture of fabrics. A seam allowance of half an inch (1.2cm) has been included
 Place one pattern piece on top of another, right sides together and pin and then sew along one length. Repeat this for the other sections so you have three different sections, each consisting of two of the panel pieces.
Right sides together sew one section to another, and then the final section leaving a gap to turn the bauble right side out. Clip all the seams. You should now have a ball shaped piece of fabric, turn it right side out and begin stuffing.

Close up the bauble with a ladder stitch. A ladder stitch is formed by first anchoring a stitch from within the bauble and popping the needle out at the seam allowance. Then put the needle directly into the fold of seam allowance on the opposite side of the gap. Then on the same side of the gap bring your needle OUT of the seam allowance fold a little further up and sew directly across the gap. Repeat until you are at the top of the bauble and pull the thread tight gently.

Stitch a little loop of ribbon at the top and you have a bauble.
These can be adorned with beading on the fabric or a trail of beads from the bottom, let your imagination go wild.  For me apart from being fun to make these have the advantage of letting you tailor your ornaments to your room decor and make your tree a little more personal.  The basic bauble can be made in 15 minutes or so, and then embellished at your leisure.