Once I started I couldn't stop

At first I couldn't think of any really easy straight sewing on the machine projects.  Now I can't stop thinking of them!  So, here is a very easy one, some serviettes.  I used cotton quilting fabric, which is a good weight and comes in lots of different designs and colours. 

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Traditionally  the most common sizes for serviettes are;

12" x 12" morning or afternoon tea
16"x 16” Informal Luncheon
20” x 20 “ and 21” x 21” Dinner and for more formal occasions such as Banquet Dinning.

But, my designs is driven by the fabrics I have to hand so I have made mine 12" square finished.  This is  for using for morning tea or lunch.  But I don't think I would make them any smaller than this.  You should find that 1 m of each fabric should make a set of 6.  (I would look out for cheaper sale fabrics.)

I press my fabric on the diagonals to make sure it lines up properly.

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Stitch a 1/4" seam around the edge, needle down to pivot at the corners.

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Leave a 3" opening to turn through and then press down the seam allowance before I do this.

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Snip the corners before turning through.

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Top stitch around the edge using the inside of my 1/4" presser foot as a guide.


Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 5.13.37 pmAnd that is it.  You could use the same fabric top and bottom or have a different back or even make every serviette different.  I think these will make great Xmas gifts.


Bookcover Tutorial

It is only a week or so to the Children's Classes at the Queensland Embroiderers ' Guild and the project this time is a book-cover.

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I do have a tutorial for a book cover from back in 2011 but I think it is time for an update. ( Looking at that tutorial list there are so many here you could search forever and not find it!  Another job.)

I use this easy method to make book- covers out of odd pieces of embroidery and patchwork, even interesting pieces of fabric I find.  I don't follow any set measurements, rather, just suit it to the book I want to cover.  Have you noticed how many variations there are on A4 and A5 sized books?

Materials: fabric to cover book, interfacing, lining

Step I  -  Select your fabric and book you want to cover.

You may find that the pieces you have are too small, so join the pieces so that they extend out beyond the edges with enough fabric to fold over the                          front and back covers and allow for a seam at the top and the bottom. 

This is a flexable measurement.  The ends can cover nearly the whole of the inside cover or just enough to fit the cover in. It depends on how much fabric you have to play with. In this example I had an embroidered panel which went nowhere near the size of the book so I added a piece of left over patchwork from another project.  A thing to note at this point is that you make sure that your fabric isn't too tight, allow a bit of ease all around.

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Step 2 -    You need to add an interfacing to this piece to give the fabric some body.  The exception to this would be if you were using a stiff furnishing fabric which already has the weight needed.  In this example I had stitched through a Pellum interfacing which had given it the strength needed.  This interfacing doesn't have to extend to the fold backs, unless you want it to.

Step 3 -    Neaten the edges of the fold over on either end.  I was short on fabric at one end so I sewed a binding on it as a neatening choosing the same fabric I                 was using as the lining.

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Step 4 -  Turn your fold for the front and back cover so that the right sides are facing each other.

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Step 5 - Cut your lining fabric the same length as you main piece but about 1cm shorter on each width and neaten the raw edge .

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 Step 6 -  Place your lining fabric over you main piece, right sides together.  Pin in place and sew along the top and bottom edges.

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Step 7 - Turn your piece to the right side.  You will need to pull the front fabric through the open end of the lining and the lining will look like this.

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And the other side like this.

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Finish by folding the pocket ends to the right side and poking out the corners. 

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If I want a really refined finish I will machine right around the edge again to give this a sharp edge.  There are lots of other ways you could finish this but this is a quick easy method that gives a good result.  (When designing this I was thinking of 20+ kids lined up wanting their book covers assembled!)



The cushion back

There are a number of different ways to insert an opening into the back of your cushion.  Because I am using different weight fabrics in the two pieces, hemp and cotton, I find that this method is simple and works well.

I cut my backing piece using the measurements below.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 4.19.52 pmI then measure down approx. 4" and cut across the width so that there are two pieces.  Marking the middle I then add my zipper using the same method used in making pouches.  (tutorial here.)  I leave the seam 2" on each end of the zipper open.

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Then turn down a pleat in the fabric and pin in position.

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I then sew along the pin line.  Here I have used a darker thread so that the stitching can be seen.  This closes the ends of the fabric and the zipper sits inside the fold of fabric.

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I then trim back the excess fabric so that the front and back pieces are the same size.  Placing the right sides together I pin the two pieces together, making sure I open the zipper first.  Because I used a dark thread that would show I forgot that this wouldn't be visable on back of the front panel.  So Here I have tacked it in position.  Usually you can see this stitching and use it as your guide when stitching the front and back together.  Use your zipper foot again to do this and run your finger down the side of the piping cord so that it sits proud and stitch on top of the line where you attached to piping to the front panel.

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Because I am using hemp fabric for the front panel I have to make my seam allowances a bit bigger, about 3/4".  (If I didn't do this it could fray.)  And, also because of the hemp I have to neaten the edges with a wave stitch.  (If I used the overlocker I could do damage to the cutting blade.)

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 4.11.49 pm If I was using two pieces of fabric of equal weight I would use a 1/2" seam allowance and overlock the edges.

Turn your work through and add your pillow insert,  go up to the next size if you want the cushion to be plump.   I have left the dark thread in place so that you can see the stitching on the back.  With a self coloured thread you wouldn't see this.

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The pillow front is an old Kogin kit I finished ages ago .  It isn't my best stitching but works well as a sample for showing how to put piping around a cushion.

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Putting piping on a cushion

One of the classes that I teach is Machine Finishing for Embroiderers'.  It is all about how you get a good finish when you make up your work.  Now some embroidery doesn't need you to use a sewing machine to put that work together but things like cushions or anything that needs a zipper is something that does.  A shoddy finish can spoil all that hard work.

One of the things that I often get asked is how do I put piping around my cushion?  Well, first you have to ask are you using commercially bought piping or making the piping yourself?  It is a lot cheaper to make your own, if a bit fiddely, and, you can match it to the back of your cushion.  So here is a short tutorial on making and attaching the piping.  Tomorrow I will post one way you can insert a zipper and attach the back of the cushion to the front.

1.    The first thing I do with the cushion front is mark the distance I want to leave around the embroidery on the fabric.  I use tailors chalk to do this.  Then I measure how much piping I will need using this mark.  I always allow extra fabric and cord.  You can cut it off but it is hard to add it on.

2.    The next thing is to cut and join the bias strips needed to cover the cord.  Make sure these are cut on the true bias and that they are joined on the bias.

3.     Using my zipper foot I sew the cord in the bias strip to make the casing.  Not up too close, leave a little space for movement.

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4.    Leave the ends un-sewn so you can join them to fit.

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5.    Most instructions will say "Pin the piping into position just inside your marked line."  Now that leaves out a lot.  Just how much you need to use will have to take into account the thickness of the cord and what about the corners?

Square corners can be done but it is easier to round your corners off.  When you do this make sure your 'snip' the casing so that the piping 'walks around' that corner.

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6.  Now  that you actually know how much piping you will need to go right around that cushion you have to join the ends of that bias strips, on the bias.  Why don't you just sew it straight across?  Doing that will restrict movement of the piping and could pull it out of shape.

7.  Put some sticky tape on the cut ends of the cord so it doesn't fray out.

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8     Put the ends together.  Sometime if the cord is very thick or I think the ends will pull apart I will put in a hand stitch to keep them together but most commercial establishments use this end to end method without hand stitching.

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9.     Finish by sewing the casing in place.  I then attach this to the cushion front.   Using my zipper foot I stitch  just inside the casing stitch line.

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Now I am ready to attach the cushion back.

The two finger tassel

Quite a few years ago I decided I needed to have every colour of DMC stranded cotton.  Back then I was stitching other peoples designs and only dabbling with my own.  I thought that I had a full set and then DMC added new colours to the range and discontinued others.  At that point I decided I didn't need a full set of threads.


So what to do with all these threads, boxes of them?  Some I donated to the guild but I still have a lot that I will never use.  That is where the two finger tassel comes in.  One skein of thread is just the right amount to make a nice little fat tassel.  Now you could use three or even four fingers to make the tassel but they get a little thinned the longer they get.  You could use a piece of cardboard as a template but this little tutorial is just for fingers.

You will need 1 skein of stranded cotton or the equivalent amount of left over mixed cottons.

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A large needle with a big eye, a pair of scissors AND 2 fingers.

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Take the paper wrapper off the thread  and cut one small (1 round approx.) and one large length(6 rounds approx.)

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Then, with your two fingers slightly apart, lay the short thread along you index finger and wrap the main thread until it reaches the thickness you like.  This could be all the thread left or just as much as you want.

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Slide your fingers out and tie a tight knot with the short thread.

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Take the longer thread and make a slip knot in one end leaving enough length in the short end to blend in with the tassel.  (I had to put my pen through the thread because I couldn't take a photo and hold the tassel with one hand.)

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Pull the slip knot tight to make the head of the tassel and then wrap this firmly. 

Thread the end of your thread through your needle.

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Work you needle under the wrapping thread, working from the direction you finished wrapping.  I finished at the bottom so had to work towards the top.

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Work your need up and down behind the wrapping threads a number of times finishing with the needle towards to bottom of the tassel.  Notice that I work this on an angle and be careful not to pierce the strands of cotton.

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Now cut your thread at the length of the tassel and cut that folded thread along the fold.  At this point it will look a bit ragged.

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Use you scissors to trim it up.

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You could use it just like this but I have used that left over thread to make a longer hanger.  I threaded it through the top knot and made a secure knot.  You could make it fancy by using a twisted thread if you wanted to.

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First time I made one of these it took me about 15 minutes, I now have that down to 5 minutes.

Quick and Easy.  Uses up my extra threads and this is just right for the zipper pulls on all these bags I have been making.


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.