Category Archives: garment sewing

…and another spring idea

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I have a bin into which I throw the selvedge trimmings as I’m sewing. It sits to the right of my sewing machine and is getting fuller and fuller. Seems kind of like the loaves and the fishes, if you get the drift. The more I use selvedges for projects, the more the bin fills up. Never seems to reduce in volume. In between the phases of projects I’m making for work, I’m working on a selvedge project which also uses the 60 degree triangle ruler-perhaps my favorite specialty ruler!

But I think I will be taking a break from that project because I ran across this one, which is too cute for words (play on the selvedge concept ladies!). I’ll now be looking for a pair of canvas slip on shoes so I can make myself a pair of these selvedge shoes. Yep, you heard me correctly, selvedge shoes. Also will be searching for fabric mod podge. I’m thinking that will be a perfect way to use a 40% off coupon!

Maybe a bunch of us from guild could start a new fashion trend in the quilter world. Have a look at these! click here

Does anyone know of a local store that sells those canvas shoes by Toms?


Filed under 2015 gifting challenge, free patterns, garment sewing, guild activities

odd bits

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

What have you been up to lately? I recently drove down to Penn Yan with a friend to have my sewing machine serviced. Discovered that Mapquest and Yahoo maps can’t always be trusted. After having a very detailed tour of the Cayuga Lake shore neighborhoods, we eventually ended up at the shop we were aiming for. Fortunately it was a nice day, and the hillsides were gorgeous with fall colors. After dropping the machine off at the shop, we headed further on for some quilty fun. Our first stop was at Quilters’ Corners in Ithaca. I had known of this shop from quilt show venders malls, but had never been to the brick and mortar place. Wow! Lots of eye candy. So many samples to look at, and of course many different fabrics than our local shops. I love seeing the different choices that each shop buyer will make. Saw rayon batiks, voiles and canvas that I haven’t seen in our area. Every shop has its own personality, don’t you agree? We spent quite a bit of time looking at just everything, every nook and cranny. And oh, the sale fabrics… I am proud of myself that I didn’t buy any fabric at all! But I did have quite a haul of patterns and fun gifts.

Second stop was O’Sussanah’s in Watkins Glen. Another shop with a personality very different from my local haunts. Loved seeing the fabrics being used in garments and home dec.   Quite a few samples of Japanese taupes, and books from designers working in the “zakka” style. Again bought some patterns but no fabric!

We were on the clock to get back to Buffalo around dinner time, so were pleased when we got the call that our machines were ready, right around 3:00. We were in the bulk food store down the way from the machine shop when the call came. Great stuff there too. And we had some scrumptious autumn squash soup in the little cafe which is part of the complex.

All in all, a great quilt excursion. It’s definitely worth the ride with some quilting buddies.

Do you know of some fun destinations for a quilting day trip? Share!

BTW, here are a few interesting links I’ve come upon recently in my travels through blogland.

binding an inverted corner: click here

easy quilt for baby or actually for anyone: click here


Filed under eye candy, free patterns, garment sewing, gift ideas, local quilt shops, tips and tricks, Uncategorized

Amy Butler

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Are you a fan of Amy Butler fabrics and patterns? I just received notification that her free pattern for her latest fabric line is now posted at her website. Here’s the link: click here. I also received notification not long ago that her latest clothing pattern: a pieced duster, is now available. She looks great in it, and I love the concept but I’m afraid I may be past the age cut off for her style. Although I am thinking about how it would look in a collection of somewhat “quieter” fabrics–batiks maybe. See what you think of her style. It would be great for you younger women out there. Looks like it would be very comfortable and could definitely take a pair of jeans up a few notches. Click here.

As I worked through my e-mails today, I noticed that a theme was in the making: vintage clothing techniques. How is it that several unrelated blogs all posted about clothing today? Anyway… I used to do a lot of smocking. Not the type where embroidery stitches were laid over tightly gathered bands, but the type where a grid was laid out and stitching pulled together points on the grid to make interesting patterns. I think this type is sometimes called Canadian smocking (as opposed to European smocking). In the sixties it was fashionable to make pillow coverings and other home decor items using this technique. Here’s a tutorial that came in today’s mail for this “old” technique. Click here. Does anyone besides me remember that style?

Getting back to work on seminar items, TTFN!

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Filed under free patterns, garment sewing, gift ideas, stitchery, tips and tricks, tutorials, Uncategorized

Exciting new fabric designers

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’ve been watching videos and reading blog posts about the recent Quilt Market in Pittsburgh. Lots of great cool “stuff” coming.  One that I’m going to be truly excited to see will be the fabrics from a new design group called Cotton and Steel, who work with RJR fabrics. The names of these 5 women were already familiar to me-some have published books in the “modern” quilting movement. Melody Miller, the ringleader, has already made a name in certain circles of “sewists” as we are now called. I think of my self as a “sewist” more than a quilter, because I sew all sorts of things. Quilts, garments, home dec, crafty items … The fabrics from Cotton and Steel have tickled the sewing gene for me. I’m anxious to try some of them out– in who knows what kinds of projects. See what you think about them.  (Leave comments to enter into the running for prizes from me celebrating my 250th post here at this blog. Actually this one you’re reading is number 252)

Click here for short film about Cotton and Steel.

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Filed under "modern" quilting, eye candy, garment sewing

checking your work

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

That heading really sounds like a math teacher wrote it.  (a retired one!) I’m working on a sample of a block for a demo I’ll be doing in a month or so. The book has great ideas but was not edited carefully at all. I wonder who it was who fell down on the job…the designer, the copy editor, the technical writer…   This is very irritating to me every time it happens. And it happens much more often than it should. (In a perfect world it would never happen!) I’m sure many a quilter has come upon errors in a pattern and blamed them on herself. Actually I find that many times the errors belong to some one else. Why don’t they check their work more carefully?

That said, our own inaccuracy in a 1/4″ seam cause us problems often. The block I am testing has 20 spokes (it’s a dresden plate variation) coming together in the center of the block. An ever so slight, one or two thread inaccuracy, multiplied by 20 becomes a problem. So in addition to finding ways to make the seams very accurate, I am also finding ways to compensate for the inevitable center issue in this block. I’ll want my students to be able to finish it, without too much frustration. This is not a block for those who think that 1/4″ inch seams aren’t as important as consistent seam widths.  That philosophy really limits the kinds of blocks and projects that a quilter can complete without a lot of angst. There is only so much a “fudge factor” can do for you.

This blog post  (click here) from Quilters’ Newsletter magazine talks about the process the magazine goes through to insure that what they publish is correct. I wish all publications were edited so carefully!! If while you are there, you back up to one post earlier, there is an interesting post comparing different hand quilting needles. Within that post she talks about Lady Edith’s developing fashion sense on Downton Abbey. If you are or were a garment sewer, or have an interest in historical costuming, I think you’ll enjoy the link she gives to notes about Lady Edith’s garments. I also was amazed at a photo of the actress who plays Lady Edith-what a different appearance she has in her “real” persona. (What did you think of the final episode?!)


Filed under garment sewing, hand quilting, quilt history

a quilted Michelin man

ME back again,

Here is a big name designer including our worst nightmares of quilted clothing in her ready-to-wear collection for this fall. If the model, who probably is as big around as one of my arms, looks like this in it, can you imagine any “real” woman’s figure being flattered by this coat? Couldn’t find many quotes of the price, but one I did find was $650. No there is not a missing decimal point. Six hundred fifty dollars. Yowza!

Have a look here, and see if you will be see wearing one this year. If you will, I take it all back. It looks great on you!!


Filed under garment sewing

“We Love to Sew”

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How are you this fine rainy day? I just finished marking a set of place mats for quilting. They will be another set of samples for the seminar class I am teaching this fall: Get Out of the Ditch. I borrowed some hand quilting stencils from our guild library and am adapting them for walking foot quilting. I used my favorite marker for this task: Crayola washable markers. That’s right, the ones kids buy for school. I have been using them for this sort of thing for several years and love it. They are very easy to work with, to see while stitching, and to wash out when you’re finished. It’s actually time for me to start watching for them as loss leaders in back to school supplies since some of mine are drying out and/or have worn out tips. Also time to stock up on the Elmer’s washable school glue that I use for so many tasks in the sewing room. Often is a loss leader at school supply time as well and can be purchased so cheaply that it’s almost like stealing it! For you traditionalists, gluing makes mitered borders so easy that you might be tempted to put them on every quilt!

A few posts back I wrote about Annabel Wrigley’s new book for tween sewers called “We Love to Sew”. (BTW thank you to the commenters who gave me some good ideas for projects to do with my sewing buddy. Will definitely be suggesting pajama pants since she seems to live in them!) I ordered a copy of the book and it arrived yesterday. What a great book for kids! It is written for the tween sewer. The photos show kids’ hands, and kid models. It definitely has very cute, kid appealing projects. For the most part it is a girls’ book, but some of the projects could easily be adapted to be made by or for boys. There are 28 projects in the book under the headings Accessorize, Five-Minute Fancies, Wear, Use, Decorate, and Cuddle. It doesn’t talk down to the young reader, but it is written in language they will understand. Appropriate cautions to get adult assistance are included where necessary. I don’t know if I’ll be giving this book to my sewing buddy for her birthday, which was the original plan, or keeping it as a teaching tool. Maybe I should just order another copy. If you have a youngster–maybe grade 4 up to grade 8 or 9–who likes to sew or wants to learn, this would be a great book to use with them.

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Filed under garment sewing, gift ideas, quilt books, sewing with/for kids

the next generation of quilters

Hi y’all, Mary Ellen here.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile then you know that I like to listen to Pat Sloan’s podcasts for American Patchwork and Quilting while I walk the dog. One segment of the most recent one was about a new author, Annabel Wrigley, and her book, We Love to Sew, containing projects for teaching tweens to sew and quilt. Great things at her blog too. click here to visit.

I have a little sewing buddy who lives next door. She is the official babysitter for my dog, whenever I need someone to feed him or let him out when I’m at work or gone for long periods. She works for fabric. When she was tiny she asked me if I would teach her to sew. I told her when she turned 9 that we would start. She never let me forget it. We got a later start than she wanted, but she’s been sewing for about a year now. She even got a sewing machine of her own for Christmas. Apparently she tells her cousins all about it, and has let a few of them try out the machine. She has a lap quilt that we made from bits in my scrap bins (you’ve heard about those many times!). We did old time string quilting on telephone book page foundations. She made 9 blocks, each a different color family of scraps, and we attached them with simple straight sashing. The backing is a plush fleece. We tied it instead of quilting it for a faster finish, since once the end was in sight she wanted it done, with a capital D. We’ve made a tote bag for herself with horses on it (another of her loves), a messenger bag for her sister to take with her for her year abroad, an apron for grandma’s birthday, and a pouch for her makeup. Running out of ideas that interest her right now. I’m looking for a few good ideas to have up my sleeve when her sewing mojo returns. Any suggestions? I’m thinking that some time this summer she’ll be bored and looking for a project.

Annabel gives some tips for having a successful experience when sewing with kids. She talks about wanting to make sewers for life, making the experience fun so that the kids will keep returning to it again and again. The first hint she mentioned was giving up on perfect. Many sewers I talk to can relate terrible experiences with tearing out seam after seam in home ec class. Those zipper fiascos have scarred many a stitcher for life! Some of us still are very hard on ourselves when our blocks aren’t quite perfect. Letting go of that a bit makes the quilting experience more fun. Every binding doesn’t have to be hand stitched, every point doesn’t have to be perfect, if the seams don’t match at the corners it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve been sewing since I was quite young, and there was a time in high school when it was not fun for me. I was like every teen girl wanting to have the latest fashions, and dress like all the other girls. With limited funds that meant sewing my own clothes (remember when that was cheaper than buying them?). Of course I wanted lots of clothes so I had to be at the machine for long stretches. Sweat shop sewing took the fun out of it. Similarly through college, although once jeans became acceptable garb for nearly everything, and the relaxed hippy style became some what mainstream, the pressure to crank out clothes on the machine eased up. Eventually I got back to sewing garments for fun and individuality. Then quilting entered the picture! For a long time I rarely sewed a garment. I’m starting to get back to the enjoyment of wearing something I’ve made myself. Still finding it hard to get good fabric (other than quilting cottons) but just bought some 100% linen for a skirt. If you really comb the racks at the big J store there are a few quality fabrics hidden amongst the dreck. Now I’ll try to enjoy the thrill of the hunt!

Back to my original theme. That next generation of sewers and quilters. Have you taught any one to sew or quilt? How was the experience for the two of you? What project(s) did you do together? Do you have a personal nightmare story of sewing that nearly put you over the edge? Do tell please.


Filed under garment sewing, scrap quilting, Uncategorized

what goes on in our heads?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’ve been sitting here with my coffee watching the rain come down. It’s such a rarity these days. (NOT!) Actually I think I’m watching my grass grow. I missed my opportunity to mow yesterday and will now pay the price for procrastinating. That lawn will be too heavy to mulch it, so I’ll be emptying the mower bag repeatedly whenever I am able to get out there. I only have only garbage can which I dedicate to yard waste and my lawn will over fill it. I either need to mow more often, or buy another can. The compost bin is full so that will not be an option til I use more of it.  Oh well..this makes for a great day to sew!

I’m working on some fabric scarves from an Amy Butler pattern. She calls for voile but I’m using some regular quilting cotton from Art Gallery Fabrics. Their fabrics are luscious, in design and texture, but they are heavier than voile. So far I have adapted the pattern by making my scarves narrower. I wish our local shops would carry more of the unusual fabrics, such as the voile and home dec fabrics from these new designers. And way up at the top of my fabric wish list would be some Liberty cottons. I’m sure the owners have the dilemma that their customers don’t ask for them so they don’t carry them. But my response would be-how will your customers learn how superb those fabrics are to use if no one sells them? Hmmph! I guess that is where the internet comes in. Sadly there is little demand for our brick and mortar retailers to add those “unusual” fabrics to their inventories. In the “old days”, when I did quite a bit of garment sewing, I loved to purchase fabric off the beaten path. Raw silks, cashmere wools, Pendleton wools, rayon batiks, …  They made for great garments that no one else had. Often I could get them at sale prices, because not many sewers used them. Do you remember those days when sewing your own clothes was actually cheaper than buying them? Particularly for folks like me who had “champagne taste and a beer pocketbook” as my mom used to say.

I think I’m aging myself. Saw a great book at my local quilt shop yesterday full of funky garment patterns with very cute design elements. The fabric choices were so much fun. Sadly I think they would look much better on a younger woman who either has the body or the attitude to carry them off. I know I’ll be going back to that book every time I visit the shop. I’m going to keep thinking until I come up with a fabric combination that I think a woman of a certain age (my age!) could wear. Almost all of them require zipper insertions! It has been many moons since I’ve dealt with a zipper in a close fitting garment. I don’t wear close fitting any more. How about you? I subscribe to Gilda Radner’s fashion philosophy. Here are two of my favorite quotes from Gilda on this topic: I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” and “I sometimes stand in front of a mirror and change a million times because I know I really want to wear my nightgown.
A student shared this visual of what goes on in our heads that I think you’ll enjoy. I recognized most of the areas as being in my quilter’s brain. You too?

quilters brain

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Filed under gardening, garment sewing, local quilt shops, Uncategorized