Some singlet dresses

I had to replace the foot pedal for my over-locker and whilst in the Bernina Shop I saw some children's singlet dresses on the wall that they had been teaching as a project.  I immediately thought of my grand daughters and quickly bought a couple of ecco cotton tops to make them one each.   Now there are lots of  instructions for these dresses on the internet and they are quick and easy to make but I made a couple of changes to get a better look.

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I like this tutorial for a toddler but I wasn't happy with the look of how the bodice and skirt joined.

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The things I considered first were:

  • The choice of fabric,  I used some Liberty cotton because it gathers, drapes and washes well. (The fibre used has a long staple - expensive- which means it doesn't crease like cheaper cottons that have a short staple - cheap.)

        But there are lots of fabric to choose from.  Most Mum's these days do not iron and hand washing is a thing of the past.  So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabric choose one that has a small amount of polyester in it.  Pure cotton is going to crease.  It will look good to start with but after the first wash it will be creased if not ironed.  After a couple of minutes in the dryer that fabric with some polyester in it will look great.  (The heat slightly melts the polyester in the fabric taking out the creases as it is thermoplastic.)

  • The amount of fabric.  Most instructions tell you to use the width of the fabric but this varies between fabrics and the weight of the fabric will effect just how it gathers.   I think pleating would be better for a heavier weight fabric and extra width is needed if you are using a light weight fabric.
  • The distance between the underarm and where you cut the t shirt.

This changes with the age of the child.  For a toddler I would cut the T shirt at about 9cm (3.5").  A toddler has a bit of a tummy and this will hang better over it.  For my girls, who are 5 & 6 years of age I made the cut longer 12cm (nearly 5") .


Then there was the construction.

After I cut the T shirt I ironed a 4cm (1.5") strip of light paper iron on interfacing above the cut to stabilise the knit fabric.  This also allows you to use a straight stitch when you attach the skirt.  After sewing you can easily peel the stabiliser back to the sewing line and trim it off.

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The gathering.

Most instructions will tell you to lengthen your machine stitch.  I only slightly lengthen the stitch but I also loosen the tension.  This makes that bobbin thread easy to pull up.  (I sew on the right side and gather on the wrong side of the fabric.)

I also sew 2 lines of gathering.  At the end of the first line I sew down 3 stitches and come back the other way.  (This is about the width of your presser foot. 

This allows you to pull up an even gathering and you can then sew the bodice and skirt together in between the 2 gathering lines.  To pull out the gathering threads you just have to snip the thread on the bobbin stitched side back at that 3 stitch turn. The loose bobbin thread pulls out with no fuss and the top thread just falls away.  This also means you do not disturb that line of stitching where you joined the bodice and skirt.

Make sure you mark the quarter and half ways points on the top of the skirt before you pull up that gathering thread.  This will then make it easy to line them up with the seams and centre front and back of the T shirt.  I then neaten this edge by over-locking it.

I thought about top stitching the join but decided it wasn't necessary.

The hem

If you want to allow for growth, and all kids grow ,  set a wider hem you can let down.  You could machine it but I like the hang of a hand stitched hem.

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The girls put the dresses on and refused to take them off.  They love the feel of that Liberty fabric.  They couldn't stop touching it.  Now there will be nothing to compare to this fabric.  I bet they are hooked for life, just like me.

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The snowflake decoration tutorial

I promised to put up this little tutorial some time ago but with all the drama going on here I forgot.


You could use this method for any type of round decoration.

For my decorations I used a 32 count linen which is a a bit stiff and a cotton,( with a high thread count) printed fabric for the back.  Other fabrics could by used, some might even gather better than these ones did.  I also used a heavier card  (1 for the embroidery, 1 for the backing)  for the shapes, not the very heavy but an in-between weight.  It has to have enough stiffness in it that it will not buckle.

 I wanted a finished size of 3"  so I used a template to trace the shape onto the card.  I then found the centre and marked the quarters on the card with a pencil.  This is important because there is nothing worse than a piece that has an off centre design.

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I then took a round bowl that was larger than the desired finished sized and marked a cutting line.  Again making sure that the embroidery was in the centre with an equal distance to the edge on all sides.  The back didn't really matter if it wasn't centred so I just marked the circles.

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On both the front and the back I stitched a line of running stitch about 1/4" from the edge.  (I tried doing this with the sewing machine but the result wasn't as good.)

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I put a long pin through the centre of the card and then through the centre of the design and pulled up the gathering thread, it sat just right. 

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I used the extra thread left over from the gathering to lace the fabric in place.  This was repeated on the backing shape.

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I then attached the hanging cord so it could be enclosed between the two sections.

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The back and front were whip stitched together using a cotton quilting thread, which is just a bit heavier than normal sewing thread.  To start the stitching I ran my needle  behind the fabric for a short distance before my beginning stitch and did the same when I finished the thread.

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To stitch Van Dyke stitch I ran the thread in the same way as before using a perle 8 thread.

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This was stitch over the two edges of the decoration.

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Van Dyke stitch is worked between two imaginary lines.  In this case the edges of the front and back shapes become the lines.

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Because I used an even weave linen inserting the needle at a 2 thread interval kept the stitch even.  It was also easy to work around that hanging thread.

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When you use this stitch in this way it raises it up and makes a good edge to attach beads to but can be also used as it is.  In fact using this stitch on an edge defines the edge and gives an attractive finish.  I have used it on needle cases and even pages of fabric books. This method of construction does take some time but gives a good finish to your piece.

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Inserting and joining piping in a seam

The most common time that you want to put piping into a seam is usually around the edge of a pillow and there are lots of good tutorials on You Tube for this.  But for the embroiderer sometimes the scale is a whole lot smaller, as in pin cushions.  The diameter of this one is only 3".    (There is no way I would go any smaller than this.)

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You could just cross over the ends of the piping but it you want an invisible join it isn't that easy and is certainly not for the faint hearted.  In fact I probably should have put piping at the bottom join as well to make this look balanced  but as this is only a demonstration I chickened out and only did the top edge.  It is the small size of this piece that raises the level of difficulty.  So how do you do it?

I start by selecting a couple of contrasting fabrics.  Once for the main and a contrast for the piping.  I allow extra for the seam allowance, usually 1/4" and cut 2 circles for the top and bottom and a strip about 3" wide for the sides.  Once you put the top and sides together you can adjust the height.

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Select a width of cord that is in proportion to the piece you are making.  My cord is fine. I laid this around the line I drew on the back of the top and bottom circles.  I make it a little bigger to give myself some  margin for error. (I do this by laying it on the outside of my line.)

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  I cut my contrast fabric on the bias 1" wide and attach one end in the middle of the bias binding.   This is just to hold it in place. (I will remove these stitches later.)

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Fold the bias strip in half to enclose the cord and stitch about 1/4" from the edge.  Again, this just holds the cord in place, you are not stitching up close at this stage.

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Mark the centre of your cord with a pin.

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Pin the covered cord around the edge of the top circle, pining either side and working out from the centre mark, on the right side of your fabric Inside the line of machining and snip your edges to allow the piping to stretch around the circle.

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.  Check that you are matching this to the line your have drawn on the back.

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Continue until you are able to join the covering fabric.  You will need to keep the ends of the cord out of the way and join with a bias seam so that the fabric will measure exactly.  Take time to do this.  Rushing will just mean unpicking.

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The next step is to join the cord.  On a pillow you could just butt the ends together and sew around your piping but on this you have to butt the ends together and then darn the join.    If you join it with a seam it is just too bulky and if you join it in the usual manner the ends come apart because the curve is so tight .  Nothing else for it than the darning.

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Sew the binding edges together and pin in place.

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  Now tack that covered piping to the top circle. Compare the pinned image above to the image below.  You can see how much better that piping sits.  This will make sewing the piping in position far easier and it will be a lot more accurate.

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Sew the piping in position on your tacking line.  That is inside your line of machining.  This will make your piping sit better in the casing and give you a reference line when you come to join the side. Trim up your edges so that they are all neat.  Remove your tacking.

Join the seam in the side piece to make a tube and pin in position.

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If your are new to this I would suggest tacking the edges of your top circle with the binding attached and the sides as well.  These edges are known to move.  Sew around the edge using the stitching line that is there as you guide.

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  I normally stitch one needle width inside this.Your piece will look something like this.  Now is the time your can adjust the height to suit.

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Sew the bottom circle to the sides.  (This is a lot easier without the piping.) Nick the edges to allow the seam to sit better.

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Open your side seam enough to allow you to pull the fabric through to the right side.  Stuff if fibrefill or what ever filling you select.  Close the opening with a ladder stitch.  (Gee I'm glad that is finished.)

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This is a lot easier if your piece is larger.  Darning the piping cord ends together before your cover the cord will give you a better finish  that isn't bulky and you will not see the join or the raw ends.



Zippered bag tutorial

I am late with today's post as I have been teaching all weekend and have more classes this week.  I tried to come up with a different way of putting a zipper and lining into a small bag and as I had a bundle of lace zippers decided to use one of these.  Lace zippers are more delicate than your normal zip  so don't pull to hard or they will rip.  I am sure there are other tutorials like mine as this type of zippered bag is quite common. 

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You can vary the size to suit your zipper length by moving the centre line right or left.  I don't think I would make it any smaller than about an 8" zip but you could make it bigger.  (This drawing would fit on an A4 piece of paper.)

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When I ordered these zippers I thought I would get pretty colours like I had received before.  This time they were dark maroons and browns.  I thought of throwing them away but just couldn't do that.  So I have had to change my approach.

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I went to my stash and found 2 fat quarters that I didn't know what to do with.    The main fabric was very light so I ironed some interfacing to this, then cut out my pieces.  There is a bit of wastage after I had cut out the bag but I striped these and added them to my box of strips.

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With right sides together  sew the upper edges of the lining and main fabric together with 1/4" seam and then trimmed it back to 1/8" .

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Take a bit of time to do this next bit.  Open the seam flat and iron seam allowance towards the main fabric.

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Then re-iron the edges so they sit together.  You are going to add your zipper over this so taking time to get it right makes inserting the zipper easier.

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Position the opening end of your zipper with the edge of the fabric.  (I find these little clips great for this job.)  My zipper is longer than the opening so I will have to shorten it.

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Sew the zipper to this upper edge using your zipper foot..  Now that is easier said than done.  If you sew it too close it gets stuck in the teeth.   I position the edge of my fabric so that I can see through the top line of holes in the lace.

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Open the top ends of your zipper to make getting around the pull easier.  Once you have done this close the zip again.

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Iron flat using an ironing cloth, those plastic teeth can melt.

The next step is to sew the side seams of the main fabric and lining together but first make sure you zipper teeth are sitting high.

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Once your have these in position join your side seams using a 1/4" seam..

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 11.21.58 am Make sure you have opened your zipper before sewing the bottom seam.

Sew the bottom seam on both the bag and lining.  Leave an opening in the lining to turn your bag through.

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Opening the lining seam and press open this will make stitching it closed easier.

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Next step is to box the corners.  Now you might find that all the corners look like this.

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But sometimes you get one that looks like this.

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Just cut it so the both side are the same. (2" each side)

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Match you seams and sew across using a 1/4" seam.  On the main fabric put the thickness each side of the seam.
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On the lining open the seam and sew across.

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Now we are ready to turn the bag through.  I would do this next to my iron.  As you turn it to the right side iron those boxed corners flat before you sit the lining in place. You can now ladder stitch the opening in the lining closed.  You have nice sharp edges to make this easier.

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Then iron the triangle in the ends in place and along the bottom edge.  Get inside your bag with your iron and make sure that the fabric sits flat.  (Sometimes a little spray starch can make a big difference to your finish.)

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And there you have it.

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I quite like that dark zipper now.

Mitred Corners

I am teaching a Machine Finishing class this weekend and have been organising my notes and samples.  Times change quickly and what is applicable one year ago is not so the next, so I have had to have a complete rethink about this class. One of the main changes is that the net is full of tutorials, image and video.  So I have gone through the notes and included links to these so that the students can go back over the techniques in addition to the notes I provide.

When it came to the mitred corner I found Mr Google sent me to those that work for quilting and household sewing.  There aren't that many for hand embroiderers.  The best one I could find was one by Mary Corbet, but this was hand sewn, not machine sewn.  It is much the same but the difference is that you sew  on the reverse and you stop stitching at the fold line.

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Now this might not seem a big thing but the difference is in the degree of the finish.  For an embroiderer getting that hem to sit perfectly is important.  People look more closely at hand embroidery than they do at a machined piece.

I then had another think about all those tutorials for the easy way to mitre a corner and they do have value if you are sewing serviettes, table cloths or quilts. I decided to add that to the class as well.  Everyone will have their own serviette to use at morning tea, all be it just cotton not a linen one.

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Then I went looking for a good tutorial on that technique.  The one I liked the best is from Purl Solo.  (Love that shop in NY.)

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I suppose I really should learn how to make videos myself to go with my classes.



Peace Embroidery No 1 January 2017

One of the tasks on my list for 2017 was a "Peace Embroidery" for each month of the year. Personal Peace is what this months saying concerns.  It comes from George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker Movement and was written during the 1600's.  But the sentiments are true today.

"Carry around some quiet inside thee."

Having a quiet spirit is an enviable attribute.  In our world today, with it's many distractions it is sometimes hard to find.  In my classroom I had positive affirmations posted on the walls to encourage a positive learning environment.  I think the same approach, of having quotes that catch our attention and remind us of things that are important,  is applicable in our daily lives.

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I have to say I rushed this piece.  It was the noisiest embroidery I have every stitched  It was insistent that I keep stitching and get it finished.  It wasn't happy with the colours I had choosen and I found myself stitching with different colours altogether.  I told it that it would just have to put up with the frame I put it in as it was all I had to hand and I can see it has moved slightly..

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With all that pressure I made mistakes so the chart is slightly different from the finished embroidery. (Only at the corners of the border)  It is stitched on 32 count even weave linen and I used 2 strands of DMC embroidery cotton and a 26 Tapestry needle.  I'm not quite sure how many hours are in the stitching as I did so much 'reverse' stitching but I think it wouldn't take more than a day or so.  A quick easy project.

Download Peace 1






Sewing, sewing.

Oh that sewing of gifts.  I just think of new things to do all the time.  There are some gifts that cry out to be put into a bag so I have been making bags to put things into.  The Magic 3's bag is just perfect for some things.  This gift, which must remain a secret until it arrives at it's destination, needed a bag which was a bit bigger , so I just increased the size.  Works perfectly and I can make more than one in a day, even with all the hand sewing I put into it.

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 9.52.25 pmThe more I use this pattern the more I like it.

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It is also a great stash buster as well.




No housework, no exercise, couldn't go for a swim, I stitched on the weekend.  I now have this one by the throat!  A couple more weeks and all the embroidery will be finished.

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And I finally worked out a way to do those isolated stitches without running my thread across the back of my work.  On this fabric it would have really showed through.

I tried taking photos of this but I think a diagram is clearer.

First thing I did was tie a quilter knot in the end of the thread. (There are lots of tutorials on You Tube.)

Step 1

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Step 2

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Step 3

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Step 4

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I'm not sure if this is the correct way to do this, but it works for me.






A tale of 3 little fabric bowls

My friends have given me little fabric bowls as gifts over the years.  Two in particular I find just doesn't work but they were given to me by a friend that has passed on and I like to look at them and think of her.  But that still doesn't make them work! 

The problem is that I use these to put the ends of threads in and the opening is too small.

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I keep looking at them on my desk and try to think how I can fix them.  The sides have been machine stitched, so I have tried undoing this  a bit, but that opening is still too small.  So today I completely undid the sides of one, folded down the flaps further and re stitched the sides by hand.

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It works a lot better.  But is still not as good as the one that I made as gifts for my friends a few years ago.

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Luckily I put up the pattern in April 2009 as a free download,  so I was able to get it down and make another one using some scraps I had left over.  I tried to dress it up a bit by beading the edges.  I was just going to do the corners but got carried away.  Then I thought it could use some buttons, so I made some.

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The pattern for this can be found on Mary Hickmott's blog.  It is a fair way back and is titled "Yorkshire Buttons".  She has included templates is several sizes, from small, like mine, to large.  She said you shouldn't start with the small size, but I don't listen very well.  I also made mine out of 3 strands of DMC cotton, which is a bit challenging, but I'm please with the result.  I have now put those other thread bowls on tables I don't use as much. Then I looked at them again and have had a better idea, wool bowls!

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Now I originally made my thread bowls back in 2009, 7 years ago as Easter presents and filled them with chocolates.  I think I will make some more this year as Xmas presents.  I have lots of scraps and I can get some more practice on those buttons.








Nearly Xmas

The pace of the parties is increasing, there seems to be some thing on every day.  Children of friends and family are flying home from overseas for Xmas so this has increased the party list.  We went to a wedding lunch yesterday.  The actual wedding was in Boston in the USA but this was the Australian celebration.  Michael is my son's best friend and has been working in New York for the past 10 years and has now married, bought a house and settled there.  So we all came to celebrate and to welcome Louisa into our circle of friends.

Secret Santa rules at most of the parties and at one there was a gift of a little bag.  I was curious about how it was made and sat down to work it out.   Then someone sent me a YouTube link for a fat quarter bag but that didn't answer the question of how the maths worked.  I found that it all worked on the magic number 3.  It doesn't really matter what size you want to make the bag as long as the side of your square can be divided by 3.

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I decided to make a 15" square.  I knew this would be small but it is just the right size to put a small gift into.  I choose 2 contrasting colours in fabrics which were slightly different weights and sewed around the edge leaving an opening to turn the square to the right side.  I did this and then slip stitched the opening closed.  When ironed the lining just showed around the edge.

Bag 1

Now came the magic bit.  I measured down 1/3rd of the side at both ends and turned this down ironing it in position.  Then folded in the sides so the made a straight edge on either side. When folding I made sure that the lining was showing.

  Bag 3

Bag 8

The top and bottom edges were sewn to make a casing for the draw string. I used the side of my sewing machine foot to define the distance and reversing at the start and finish.

Bag 7

In the videos and other bags I have seen like this, after folding the bag in half they machine stitched the side seams but I decided that I would get a neater finish if this was ladder stitched.

Bag 5

  I did the same to the overlap opening on the front and back,

Bag 6

then boxed the corners so the bag would have a flat bottom. 

  Bag 4

I used a rat tail cord for the drawstring and sewed a bead at the point of each triangle to give it weight. 

Bag 9

One easy bag that I now know how to make it lots of sizes.  Thinking about this bag you could do a small embroidery on each of those triangles.  An Initial would make it something personal.