Choochie Monkey Review

posted in: Dolls and Softies, Reviews | 0

Still catching up on posts here (this sunny weather has me outside starting the garden, but more on that later…), this time a quick review of what is considered a Prim doll or primitive style item.  For those who aren’t familiar, its a doll or softie type creation made to look old or done in an antique type style.  Usually modern versions are usually made of muslin or cotton and grunged up using coffee or tea, some sanding and maybe some sprinkled cinnamon.  This gives them a found-in-the-attic kind of feel.  But, here’s the thing–you don’t have to make a prim from a prim pattern.  Use different fabric and skip the grunging for a cute modern version.  That’s exactly what I did for the Choochie Monkey.


Aww! This Chestnut Junction pattern makes up an adorable little monkey that could go with a child anywhere. Of course, we adults love him too!


This adorably goofy monkey pattern was created by Chestnut Junction, which has several other patterns I want to try, and is so simple to make up, you’ll be wanting to try a few yourself.  I made mine by upcycling some old jeans.  The felt is some of the skin tones pack that I got from Retro Mama and the buttons are a mix of vintage and modern.  The only change I made when sewing was to use machine stitching for attaching appendages and such rather than hand sewing.  I thought sewing the arms down (multiple layers of denim) with a machine rather than by hand would be easier and very secure.  A lighter weight fabric would not have been a problem to hand stitch.  I machine stitched down the felt pieces first and then handstitched over that (it just makes me feel like its more secure that way).  The red button on the heart is one of the few I got from my grandmother…so a little grandma love in the heart.

Sewing was a breeze.  The pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, so if you trace the pattern shape, be sure and leave room for seam allowances (I uses a 1/4 inch seam allowance).  I liked having a traced line to follow on these little curves—I don’t have to worry about whether I’m staying even with the edge or not…just follow the line.  It’s much easier to get accurate curves, especially little ones, this way.  Ears, arms and tail were all stitched and turned right side out.  Nozzle and heart were stitched down, embroidered with blanket stitching (or buttonhole stitch), the mouth and nostrils were stitched on and then the buttons were attached.  I also attached the tail before the body pieces were stitched together so that I could use machine stitching (again, multiple layers of denim + handstitching = sore fingers).  Finally, I pinned ears and arms in place, sewed front to back, stuffed and sewed close.  Easy, peasy!


You know you want to make one for yourself! Picking just the right buttons gave this little monkey a sweet, non-scary face that complimented the denim.


This is a great little softie which would look adorable in any style fabric…I’m thinking minky would be lovely.  The face is sweet and brings a bit of a smile to your face.  I think a careful beginner or advanced beginner could handle this project.  Honestly, it took me longer to decide which buttons to use than to sew the whole thing up!  The Choochie Monkey was a fun way to let go of some favorite jeans!

Greta Doll Review

posted in: Dolls and Softies, Reviews | 0

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post!  I’ve been so busy sewing and designing some patterns, that time just flew by, but this week you’ll be getting extra posts so that I can show you some of the lovely items I worked on, starting with a pattern review.

The Greta Doll

The Greta Doll designed by Retro Mama

I purchased this pattern. called the Greta Doll, on Etsy from seller RetroMama.  (Currently, the pattern cost is $12, which is a bit more than some, but not really out of line.  The pattern is well drafted and the pieces come together correctly.  The pattern includes the doll, three hair clip designs and a little apron.)

She’s got some great patterns (I’m dying to snag that adorable ballerina doll!) and also sells high quality felt.  I ordered the felt packs called the Skin Tone Collection and the Greta Doll Wool Blend set, but only used the Greta Doll one for this pattern (the other was for a different project).  Just a side note, the felt is very nice to sew with, nice and thick, and each sheet is 12″x18″, which gets you one doll’s hair per sheet, plus some extra for a different project.  I used the white for collars and hair clips and the black for shoes.

As you can see from the photo, she makes for a cute, huggable doll.  Don’t get me wrong, I love American Girl dolls, but they’re not exactly a doll for snuggling in bed with a child.  Kids need softies for such things.





This particular one was going to a baby shower, so, because it would be eventually in the possession of a very little one, I did not add a button to the collar.  Some felt buttons or flowers would be wonderful, but I didn’t have any appropriate ones on hand at the time.  I also did not make the apron for this one.

A simple hand embroidered face gives this doll its charm.

Greta’s face is hand embroidered, but very simplistic so that even if you aren’t the best embroiderer in the world, you can manage to get an adorable face.  I like that the face is not sad or scary, perfect for little ones.  I did some additional hand stitching around the hair clip and collar to add some color to those pieces, but I did machine stitch them in place first to make them extra secure.

Retro Mama has you interface the face piece, which gives a nice smooth face—this is a little touch that makes a big difference in a face this big, keeps it looking nice.

The hair on the front and back of the head are cut from felt.  Felt was also used for the hair clip, collar and shoes.  The rest of the body is made up of regular quilting cotton.  I used some Kona for the flesh tones and some Denise Schmidt for the dress and tights.  This would also be cute with some wool plaid, although watch the bulk.  Also, it took almost an entire bag of poly-fil, so be prepared to stuff and stuff and stuff some more!  You could also alter the hair shape, change the tights to socks, make a head band and other such changes to make a completely unique doll.

I used Denise Schmidt fabrics for the dress and tights. I think the long limbs and body shape of this doll make it adorable.

All of the pieces are simple in shape, making them easy to sew and stuff.  I also like that you triple stitch the seams, making them durable and less likely to show the stitches when stuffed.  The pattern also calls for topstitching on the felt parts, which gives a nice professional finished look.

The hard part is when it comes to sewing the body up.  The instructions have you start just below one arm, go up around the head and down around the body, putting the arms and legs in as you reach those points.  (You also switch thread color for the hair area, which I like as it blends, just in case any stitching shows after stuffing.)

I found, though, that by the time you get to the legs, there are so many limbs in the way that it was difficult to get them sewn in nicely and I had to re-sew the leg area twice after much fussing.  I’m sure others had a less difficult time, but for me this was a bit frustrating.  Maybe I’m too gentle on the limbs and just needed to squish them in?  The limbs are long (hey, she’s an 18 inch doll after all) which, while cute, make for a lot of bulk inside the body while trying to stitch down everything.



The second doll I made, using the same fabrics except for red hair, was for my sister, so it got a button which is just perfect!

The second doll I made, I tried a different routine.  I basted each limb in place, but left them hanging out until it was time to sew that particular one.  I also stitched in a different order:  first, I stitched across the bottom to make sure that I got those legs sewn down with a nice straight base ending up on the side where the opening for stuffing would end,  then I stitched down the side from the neck to the bottom on the side that is completely closed (I also stitched in my tag then too) making sure I connected to the previous stitching, then I stitched the last arm from the neck to the start of the opening (some of the limbs stuck out the head to make it less bulky), finally, I switched thread colors and, while poking some of the limbs out the stuffing opening, I sewed the head.

Whew!  That worked much better even though it was a few extra starts and stops.   I think for a third doll, I’m going to try leaving a little opening on the bottom of each arm and not stuffing the arms until after I sew and turn the body.  That way those long arms won’t be in the way and the hand stitching won’t show there or affect the durability of the doll for being played with.

She’s so adorable, who wouldn’t want this little sweetie?

Even though the first doll caused a little hair pulling over the final stitching, I have to say, she’s a cute doll and well worth the effort.  The second one was even easier and I think a third one will be a comparative breeze, so I do think she’s worth the effort and I already have the felt parts cut for two more and fabric chosen for dresses and tights.

I also appreciate that purchasing the pattern includes permission for cottage industry type crafters to make and sell the items, so you can use this for your own personal gifts or for making a little money.  On Etsy, you can also find Retro Mama’s pattern for a little cape and tie-on dress, so your Greta can have a wardrobe.  I would say that an advanced beginner could make this if they took their time and for those more advanced, it shouldn’t be a problem to sew up.

Retro Mama has created a pattern that can be used over and over, yet can also constantly change to personalize it (great for those with more than one child to make for or for those making dolls to sell).  The Greta doll is a nice classic shape so five years from now, it won’t look out of style (depending on your fabric choices of course).  I would definitely recommend giving the Greta doll a try!


Craftsy Weekend Sale!

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

You know how I love me some Craftsy classes–give them a try!




This is an affiliate link, however, if you prefer not to use it, you can go to Craftsy instead, but I do appreciate the support.

Pant Hem Alterations: Adding Trouser Kick Tape to Pants

posted in: Sewing, Tutorials | 0
blind hem trousers with kick tape sewn in
Check out those hems—blind hem and kick tape make for a professional trouser.

I recently finished watching a Craftsy course called Tailoring Ready To Wear with Angela Wolf as an instructor.  I really enjoyed it–Angela is a great teacher with lots of experience.  She shares a lot of helpful techniques and tips.  (My entire review is here on PatternReview if you want to read the details.)  The best thing about this class is that it is a good start towards earning some extra money through alterations and it will allow me to do a better job at altering clothing finds for myself.  I’m hoping there’ll be some more advanced alterations classes in the future.

One portion of the class that I’ll be using often is the various pant hemming techniques (yes, lots of shorties in this house).  Particularly, the blind stitch hem which I can use on purchased pants that need hemming, but also for the hem on pants I sew myself (or plan to sew in the future).

The whole point of a blind stitch hem is that the hem on the pants is not readily apparent.  The pant leg flows smoothly without that visual break that comes from a stitch line going across the bottom.  The best use of this type of hem is in nice slacks or suit pants and skirts.  It looks particularly good on wool as the fabric hides the little bit of thread that does show.

(The Craftsy class does an excellant job of showing you how to use a regular blindstitch foot, including the all-important method of folding the hem prior to stitching.  If, however, you’re using the vintage Singer attachment like myself, you’ll need to follow the instructions for the attachment which is a bit different from modern feet.)

See that fraying? That’s what happens to your pant hem as it comes into regular contact with the ground and your shoes. Not something you want to see on your nice trousers. Kick tape or heel guard tape helps prevent this by taking the wear instead.

I decided to add some trouser kick tape to my sister’s JCrew slacks while hemming.  What is kick tape?  Well, so glad you asked.  It’s a little ribbon (kind of reminds you of cotton twill tape only thinner) that high-end trousers often have on the inside of the hem to take the wear and tear on the pants.

It sticks out just 1 mm from the bottom edge of the pant leg, so any brushing against floors, sidewalks and shoes is mostly on the tape which can easily be taken off and replaced rather than wearing a whole in your nice pants.  I had a hard time finding anything in the USA, although there are a few sources in the UK that will ship to you.  Not wanting to wait for the shipping, I thought I’d try the heel guard tape offered by WAWAK (which also is a great source for zippers and Maxi-lock thread, btw).  They only have black, white and a dark grey (the UK sources also have brown, navy, light grey and tan), but as her slacks are a dark charcoal that was okay.  I ordered both the dark grey and the black.  I ended up using the black as the grey was not as dark as what I’d hoped, but as it only sticks out 1 mm, this is not an issue really.

When I went to add it, I could only find this one tutorial on Sew Divas (a great blog for sewing techniques), which I followed with what information was provided, but I thought maybe you would like more step-by-step detail, so I should warn you that this tutorial is by no means the authority on trouser kick tape and, in fact, I am sure there is some London Saville Row tailor who would completely freak out at me over my method.  But, it worked for me, so maybe it’ll help you.

Because I was hemming the pants at the same time, I opted for machine stitching the tape in place prior to the final hemming (pants already cut to the correct length and pressed).  If I was adding kick tape to a pair of trousers that were already hemmed at the correct length, I think I’d just hand stitch it in place using a catch stitch rather than mess with opening the hem and redoing it, unless the pants would be worn a lot.

To add the kick tape to your pants at the time of hemming, you should have already measured and cut the trousers to the desired length, finished the cut edge (I serged these pants) and steam pressed the hem up into place.  Do not sew the hem yet…we’ll add the tape first.  We’ll be working from the public, or right, side of the pants, so after pressing, turn them right side out again.

Warning:  Dark charcoal pants and black kick tape were used, so I used slightly lighter thread and I used a flash (along with some Photoshop-ing) to lighten them up enough so you could see, but in real life there isn’t such a visual disparity in colors!

You can see the serged edge of the pants at the bottom and the ridge of the pressed edge at the top of the tape. Double check that when folded back into place the tape just barely sticks out.

Step 1:  Using a measuring tape, measure along the pant leg at the fold.  This will give you the length of tape needed to go around the entire inside, add an inch for overlap.  It’ll probably be something like 24-25 inches per leg, so don’t be surprised.  Cut the tape.  (I cut the ends of mine at 45 degree angles, I think it helps with fraying.)

Step 2:  Begin at the inseam and pin the kick tape in place along the fold.  You may need to fold the hem in place to check that the tape will be only peeking out 1 mm.

Carefully measure so that when you pin the tape in place it will be straight.

Step 3:  Now measure the distance from the serged edge of the pants to the bottom edge of the tape.



Step 4:  Now, simply pin tape in place around the entire pant leg.  Keep it straight and be careful not to catch the opposite side of the pants when pinning.





I found that using a sleeve board or pressing clapper inserted into the leg was helpful in keeping the hem area flat while pinning and avoids accidentally pinning the opposite side.






The 45 degree cut and 5/8 inch overlap at the end not only will help with future wear and fraying (I think), but also creates a graduated ending so that you won’t have a noticable lump at the overlap.


Step 5:  When you reach the inseam again, simply overlap the tape by about 5/8 inch and trim at a diagonal.  I added some Fray Block to my ends for added measure and let them dry.










Step 6:  Fold under and double check that only 1 mm peeks out.  You may need to carefully adjust the tape in some areas.  At this point you are ready to sew the tape in place.  (I hand basted my tape down because the pins kept sticking me and were in the way.)  Before sewing unfold the hem again.






Step 7:  Now stitch the tape along each edge all the way around the leg.  I prefer to start and stop a little bit before and after the cut edge just to keep the tape edge from getting messed up from all the needle action.

kick tape machine sewn to hem
I’ve machine stitched the heel guard tape along each edge to prevent the tape from gaping which could catch on a shoe heel.

If you are adding these to already hemmed pants and prefer to just handstitch the kick tape in place, you can simply use a catch stitch (here’s a great tutorial, but it costs).  Be sure and only stitch through the kick tape and one layer of the pants.  No stitching should show on the outside of the pants when actually folded into place.  You can also use the catch stitch to hand hem your pants!

Step 8:  Although not really necessary, I did do a little quick handstitching to tack the end down for added measure.

You’re now ready to proceed with blindstitch hemming your trousers.

Hopefully, with the sunlight and angle, you can see the little prick points of the blindhem. You’ll notice that the kick tape is not even visible.

See how you can’t even tell its there when done!  Add that blindstitch and you have a lovely unbroken line on professional looking trousers.



Online Sewing Class

Review: Ballet Bunny Softie

posted in: Dolls and Softies, Reviews | 0

Sometimes you get what you pay for….and sometimes its a whole lot better.  Meet this little guy, the Ballet Bunny.

Ballet bunny made using the Chubby Hobby tutorial. He just wishes his hands weren’t embroidered so that he could actually use that Singer 201k handcrank to make more bunnies.

I was searching for a pattern that would make an appropriate baby boy toy (my sister had a friend coming due) when I ran across this free tutorial and pattern by Chubby Hobby.  This bunny fit the bill—no parts that could come off and create a choking hazard, simple shape, appendages that fit into little hands for holding, gender neutral, and I really liked the overall Japanese softie feel that this pattern has.  There’s a simple genius to this design.

The arms, tail and face are all hand embroidered.  I went with a coordinating orange floss in a back stitch for the arms and tail, while using black and a matching blue to satin stitch the face.  None of the stitching is hard or involved, so even those who don’t care for handwork could get pleasant results without a lot of sweat.  You could also use a stem stitch or even a running stitch for the arms and tail.

Here you can see the back stitch used to embroider the arms and the satin stitching on the face.


The tail is also a back stitch embroidery. You can also see where I inserted my CPSC required manufacturer’s tag.

I used quilting cotton for the body (that silly hedgehog and fox fabric was too cute to resist) and linen for the head and legs.  Kind of fits in with the current linen/Zakka trend, doesn’t he?

The tutorial instructions are very clear, and the sewing is simple.  So, even if you’ve never made a softie before you can do this one with great results.  The curves are a bit tight (not any more than many doll and softie patterns), so I pencil traced the stitch line on the curved places to give myself an easy-to-follow guide.  I also trimmed lightly with pinking shears which gives a similar effect to clipping curves, but so much easier on small toys.  Before sewing the front to the back, be sure and hand stitch the embroidery or you’ll find yourself in a bind later as there isn’t a lot of room for your hand to go inside.  I found a light table helpful (you could use a sunny window too, but here in Oregon it’d have been a long wait) to lightly pencil in the face and arms.  There is no pattern for the tail, so draw in your own…you could do a bumpy spiral like I did or even it out.

Also, the original pattern is quite a bit smaller, so I enlarged this one in Photoshop (you could use a copy machine) to a size that I felt was good for a tiny child’s lovie.  The original size, however, is perfect for a pocket pal for travel.  For that size, I used some flannel upcycled from one of my dad’s old shirts—a fun way to make a little keepsake.  For an adult, the original is pretty much hand-sized, but for a little one, it would still be large enough to be a decent sized toy.

The original size is on the right. You can see that I enlarged the pattern quite a bit. Both sizes make darling softies.

I loved the overall look of this bunny, although I really don’t get the whole “ballet” part of the name.  The ability to customize the fabric of the body while still keeping the overall look allows for endless possibilities.  This is a great softie pattern for using up scraps or upcycling some clothes.  I could even see one made with a cutter quilt body for a French cottage type look.  With the attached legs, the bunny also sits nicely in a bed or on a shelf.  The ability to change sizes and still easily sew the pattern really increases the versatility of the pattern.  Maybe, stocking stuffers for the original size and Easter basket fillers for the larger?  I’ll be making up several more of these—-especially since my sister fell in love with them both and they never made it out the door!

Original and enlarged versions side-by-side. The versatility of this pattern allows for complete customization.

A Quilty Package!

posted in: Quilts and Blankets | 1

Awhile back, I had mailed off some extra vintage Singer sewing machine feet to a friend in Norway.  Her name is Synnoeve and her work is amazing.  I’ve been fortunate to receive swap items from her twice—in the RATZ swap for cup cozies and key fobs.  So we’ve chatted a bit here and there and I always like to see her latest projects on Flickr.  Synnoeve has a unique style that includes a combination of modern, a touch of traditional and usually some handwork like embroidery or crochet which lends a bit of the vintage/primitive feel to her creations.  Well, anyway, she had posted some pictures of “new” machines she had acquired including a Husqvarna Viking like mine and a Singer 201 (I have a 201k handcrank) and some of the feet that she had been lucky to acquire.  I wrote her a little note saying I had some extras she could have if she was interested.  (I knew I had some extras because as I’ve tracked down various attachments, sometimes they come in a box with others I already had and sometimes I run into boxes of feet that are practically a give away.  So, I’ve handed ones to both sisters to fill out their attachment collections and still run into extras, but I just put kept putting them in a box.  I didn’t remember to count them but there were around 20, I think.  Guess I never got around to ebaying them.)  Anyway, she was excited to get some, so off they went to Norway, along with some Skittles and jelly beans, where they are enjoying a new home.  Synnoeve had offered to make me something in return, but I told her it wasn’t necessary, in fact, I remembering being a bit disappointed that I couldn’t send more, but the postage was ridiculously high due to the weight.

Well…last week, when I had the flu, I got a Flickr mail from her confirming my address.  I didn’t think much about it because, well, I was recovering from flu, so mostly I was just thinking about going back to bed and sleeping for a week, the rest of my brain function just wasn’t working.  Then, this week, a package showed up from Norway—Synnoeve had sent me something!  What a fun way to recover, right?

You can’t imagine my surprise when I opened the package to find a mini quilt inside!

The mini quilt made by Synnoeve, along with some chocolate candy from Norway.

Gorgeous isn’t it!  The spool blocks are made using fabric selvedges (these are somewhat hoarded by quilters for special projects, so sharing them is something special) for the “thread” and text fabrics for the backgrounds.  I’ve seen a lot of spool blocks, but I think this is the first I’ve seen that so cleverly used selvedges.  The quilt is machine quilted with a feather pattern in the border area and has loops and back-and-forth quilting in the block areas.  Needless to say, she put a lot of time into this little quilt and it is adorable, way more than I ever would have expected for a box full of feet.  (For those who don’t quilt, these little quilts can easily take over five hours, usually far more, to make with all the cutting, sewing, quilting and binding, not to mention any cost of materials—this is no small gift!)

She also included some candy from Norway for me to try.  I shared these with my family so we each got to try a little.  I enjoyed them all, although I’d probably make eating the top one a regular occurrence if it was sold around here. (Probably good thing that it isn’t.)  Stars was following my every move there for awhile too.

These are the candy bars included—the top one was a lot like a Kit Kat bar (only with way better chocolate), the middle was a bar with dark chocolate coating and an inside with three layers including a fruity gelatin like layer which was very different from anything we have here, and the bottom one is a milk chocolate bar which was along the lines of Moonstruck or the extra creamy Lindt or a Milka bar.

Funny thing is, Synnoeve had posted a photo of this mini on Flickr, saying that it was for a friend and I had thought, “how lucky to have a friend that would make something so lovely for you”…I had no idea it was for me!  Guess I am pretty lucky blessed in my friends, and I am the honored owner of this miniature quilt which is now on my wall in the bedroom with all the other lovely mini quilts and such that I have gotten through swaps.  This one is extra special though because it wasn’t part of an official swap, just friends sending each other something fun.  Sometimes, I’m just plain spoiled.

Here you can see more detail in the quilting and the little selvedge strips that make up the thread on the spool.

Two for the Price of One: Prairie Queen and Greek Cross Quilt Blocks

posted in: Quilts and Blankets, Tutorials | 0

Why not make two quilts at the same time? How nice would that be? As quilters, we are always on the look out for ways to make more quilts, and I am no different. With only 24 hours to a day, its hard to fit in all the projects I’d like to do. So, what if I could fit in two projects at once?

I wanted to make two American Girl doll sized quilts with actual quilt blocks, each would require around 32 miniature quilt blocks. For blocks, I chose the Prairie Queen and Greek Cross blocks. When working out the details for two mini quilts, I found that with a bit of planning, I could actually accomplish both quilt’s blocks together.

On the left is a mini Prairie Queen block and on the right is the mini Greek Cross.

I chose these miniature blocks for my fellow bee members to stitch up this year in Sew Buzzy. If you’d like to try them, here are the instructions. The one thing to remember is that you need coordinating background fabrics and corner fabrics in colors that will work with both planned quilts. In my case, one quilt is all in pinks and the other is using Spring colors, so I chose white for both block backgrounds (and the Prairie Queen center) and pink for all the corner half square triangles.  I’ve listed the fabric requirements by color to coordinate with the instruction diagrams, but you will choose colors that you like.  Individual part names are in parenthesis just to help you keep track of your color choices.

To make the miniature 3 inch block versions, here’s what you’ll need:

Background fabric (shown as white in the diagrams):
1 — 4 inch square (corners)
1 — 1.5 inch square (center of Prairie Queen)
1 — 2×3 inch rectangle (cross)
1 — 2.5×4 inch rectangle (four-patch)

Dark Pink prints: 1 — 4 inch square (corners)
Light Pink prints: 1 — 2.5×4 inch rectangle (four-patch)

Purple print: 1 — 1.5 inch square (cross)
1 — 2×3 inch rectangle (cross)

Particularly on miniature blocks, press all seams open, unless stated otherwise—with a block this small, bulk builds up fast!  Seam allowances are a scant 1/4 inch.

The instructions given are for the miniature blocks, but the measurements for the 12 inch block parts given at the end if you’d rather make a regular sized quilt instead.

Corner Units

Step One:  Take the white 4 inch square and draw (I used a pencil lightly) lines diagonally from corner to corner on the wrong side.  Do this in both directions, these will be your (blue) cutting lines later.  Next draw diagonal lines 1/4 inch on either side of each of these diagonal lines, these will be your (green) stitching lines.  (If you have a quarter inch foot for your sewing machine, you don’t need to draw the second set of lines, simply sew a scant 1/4 inch on either side of the first lines.  Alternately, if you have one of the Fons and Porter quarter inch seam markers, you can line that up to each corner and just draw the stitch lines, skipping the cut lines.)

Take the white 4 inch square and the pink 4 inch square and place right sides together.  Stitch on the 4 pencil lines that run diagonally.  This will create a big double lined X on the square.

cutting diagram
Cutting diagram for creating all eight corner units for the two blocks at one time.

Step Two:  You will now cut the 4 inch square.  Basically, you’ll first cut through the center (red lines) in a + and then through the centers (blue lines) in an x pattern.  First, cut down the center from top to bottom.  Next, without moving the pieces, cut through the center from side to side.  (You should now have four 2-inch square pieces.)  Next cut diagonally from corner to corner both ways.  Press all the half-square triangle squares open, trim to 1.5 inches.  Four of these are for the Greek Cross and four for the Prairie Queen.

hst block part
You should have eight half-square triangle units, each made up of half background fabric and half corner print.

Greek Cross

Step One:  Take the white 2×3 rectangle and the print 2×3 rectangle, place right sides together and stitch down both of the long sides (black dotted line).  Cut through the center lengthwise (blue line).  You should have two long skinny pieces.  Cut each skinny piece in half so you have four 1.5 inch double rectangle units (orange line).

Cutting diagram for the Greek Cross block.

Press open.

half square unit
You should have four of the half-rectangle squares.

Step Two:  Lay out your six 1.5 inch units—four HST squares, four double rectangles, one 1.5 inch square–according to the diagram.

sewing diagram
Layout for the Greek Cross block. You should have 4 corner units, 4 cross units and one center square.

Step Three:  Sew the 1.5 inch units together in rows and then stitch rows together to form the block.  Press open.

Here’s a look at some finished ones (displayed on point):



Prairie Queen

Step One:  Take the 2.5×4 inch white and pink print rectangles, with right sides together, stitch along both long sides (black dotted lines).  Cut down the center lengthwise (green line).  Next, cut along the length of each skinny piece (blue lines) by first cutting the length in half and then each section cut in half once more (this should make four 1-inch pieces from each skinny piece).  You should have eight total.  Press open, but press seams towards the pink print.

cutting diagram
Cutting diagram to create the four-patch units for the Prairie Queen block.

Step Two:  Take two of these new double square units and place right sides together, nudging center seams together, so that one unit’s pink side is on top of the other unit’s white side.

Sewing diagram to create four-patch units for the Prairie Queen block.

Stitch along the long side.  Repeat for remaining double square units.  You should end up with four sewn units.  Press open and press seams open.  Center and trim each four-patch unit to 1.5 inches.

You should have 4 four-patch units consisting of background fabric and a print.

Step Three:  Layout 4 half-square triangle squares, 4 four-patch squares, white 1.5 inch square according to the diagram.  Sew blocks together in rows and then sew rows together, pressing as you go (press seams open).

Sewing diagram for the Prairie Queen block. You should have 4 corner units, 4 four-patch units and 1 center square.


These are great blocks for scrappy quilts.

Miniature Prairie Queen blocks made by myself and fellow Sew Buzzy members. Once the rest are returned, I’ll have about 1/3 done.


A one-inch sashing could be added between the blocks to complete the look.

If you’d like to make a large scale version with 12″ finished blocks, here is what you’ll need:

Background fabric:
1 — 4.5 inch square
1 — 10 inch square
1 — 5×9 inch rectangle
1 — 5×10 inch rectangle

Corner print:
1 — 10 inch square

Four-patch print:
1 — 5×10 inch rectangle

Cross print:
1 — 4.5 inch square
1 — 5×9 inch rectangle

Remember, that with a 12″ finished block, each unit should measure 4.5 inch square before being sewn into a complete block.

If you sew some up, I’d love to see what you create.  You can even post a photo of any Raggie Girl tutorial/pattern over in our new Flickr group.  Have fun!

Project Wardrobe 2014

posted in: Sewing | 2

So, have you ever looked in your closet and thought, “I have nothing to wear.”  Of course you have.  Okay, maybe it isn’t always literally true.  Maybe you just crave something new.  But, maybe you’ve changed sizes and nothing fits.  That’s where I’m at.  I used to have jackets, suits, blouses, tops, skirts, dresses and plenty of lovely, expensive ready-to-wear clothes.  That was when I was a size 2-4 and worked in a government office.  Not so anymore.  Now, I’m a size 4-6 (this is a good thing for me) and can dress more casually, but still need some dressin’ up clothes for church, interviews, presentations, etc. in the ol’ wardrobe.  I had clothes, but, in all honesty, most didn’t really fit.  Why keep things that don’t fit?  It just makes you feel uncomfortable and it’s not attractive when you’re clothes don’t fit properly.

This last year, I decided anything which didn’t fit was out, which means after purging all non-fitting items from the closet and drawers that I have:  1 casual black skirt, 1 woven tee and 1 short sleeve pull-over type blouse that were wearable muslins made this summer, 2 light weight tunics, 2 long sleeve tees (one I just discovered has a new bleach stain, bummer), 2 ill-fitting short sleeve tees, 3 button up tops (one is a bit snug in the shoulders and shrunk just a bit in the arms, so its going first), 3 pairs of jeans that are too snug at the waist (awkward), a couple of snug jackets, 4 cardigans/sweaters, a winter coat, 3-4 old tees used for pajama tops and 4 pj bottoms, and lots of socks.  Hmm, not sure where all the socks came from.

Clearly, I kept a few non-fitting items to avoid public nudity, but they need replacing soon.  What’s left looks like I’m dressing for flea market shopping or garden work.  Yikes!  Time to update create a wardrobe.

My Ideal Handmade Wardrobe List:

  • 4 jeans
  • 3 trousers/pants
  • 1 pilates pants
  • 5 skirts
  • 1 dress coat
  • 1 casual fall/spring coat
  • 8 tees (woven and knit), short sleeve
  • 8 tees (knit or woven), long sleeve
  • 8 button up blouses/shirts
  • 5 blouses/tops, misc. style
  • 5 dresses
  • 5 jackets
  • 2 hoodies
  • 2 cardigans
  • 4 winter pj sets
  • 4 summer pj sets
  • 1 special occasion dress
  • 1 temple dress
  • 3 slips (one black, one half, one white or nude)

Yeah, I don’t need that many clothes, but that would give me tons of combinations and still let me make it through a week of tees in any season before I needed to do laundry, ha ha.  I need warm clothes for winter because I totally freeze (I’ll have to purchase any sweaters as I, sadly, don’t knit or crochet), and plenty of summer clothes as I spend a lot of time in the garden and outside, so sweat and dirt are a reality.  (Yeah, not much white worn here.)  It all needs to be washable (even if by hand) because I don’t do dry cleaning (it’s bad for the environment and costs a ridiculous amount).  The clothes also need to be classic enough not to go out of style anytime soon—it takes too much effort and expense to sew it all just to toss it in a few seasons, and my budget really can’t stand that kind of frivolous waste.  (Just me, maybe you prefer a rotating fashion.)  I’ve also become a non-fussy clothes kind of person, so it can be as tailored as it wants to be, but it better be easy care (aka not a lot of ironing) and quick to throw on.  Each piece needs to be built to last, so no shoddy workmanship or cheaply made fabric (it can, of course, be inexpensive).

One more thing, for my personal challenge, I’m trying to only go shopping from my stash, so I’ll only be purchasing additional supplies (interfacing, buttons, etc.) if I absolutely have to.  If I don’t have the fabric, I have to move on to another item on the list until I’ve finished off everything I have fabric for, then I can go get more.  The one exception to this will be jeans because I know I only have a couple of pieces of denim, but I have to finish half the tops and skirts before I can buy additional denim.

That’s not to much to ask from a wardrobe is it?

I’ll put my list over on the sidebar to keep track with.  Working from home, I’ve got a strict self-imposed schedule now, but I’ve set aside evenings (when I get my daily projects done) and weekends for quilting and wardrobe making, so we’ll see how far I get this year.  What wardrobe items are you working on this year?


Review: Tailoring Ready-to-Wear Class

posted in: Reviews, Sewing | 0
unhemmed pants
Most men’s slacks come unhemmed so that you can have the length adjusted to your needs. This also saves the company money making only one length of pant, leaving the cost of adjustments on the consumer.

Awhile back, I finished and reviewed the Tailoring Ready-to-Wear class on Pattern Review.  I thought I’d give you guys a more indepth look at it.

First off, the title doesn’t mean tailoring as in Saville Row and pad stitching.  In this case, tailoring refers to customizing or adjusting the fit of clothing to you specifically.  Think alterations and you’re on the right track.This is an online class* offered through Craftsy* and taught by Angela Wolf.  (You might know her from classes offered on PatternReview and Craftsy, or on the It’s Sew Easy tv show.)  Angela Wolf is an excellent instructor (although she does talk fast sometimes, but if you don’t catch what she just said, you can use the 30 second replay feature) with a great deal of knowledge and experience in the area of alterations.  Clearly, Angela is used to the camera as she shows no nervousness and demonstrates techniques as if she is talking to you in person, often showing something more than once so that you can catch it without having to replay (the lazy sewist in me appreciates this).  I also appreciate that her voice is not monotone, but rather friendly.  I’ve sat through many a class where I start nodding off due to a quiet monotone voiced instructor.  Not something you want when you’re up late at night watching an online class!  Wolf is extremely quick to respond to posted questions and always responds in a respectful, enthusiastic manner.  I liked that she never assumes a know-it-all attitude (like some of my college professors) and is just as excited to hear about something new from a student as she is to share her own knowledge.  Angela doesn’t hold back when it comes to sharing techniques!  For an instructor rating, I’d give Angela 5 out of 5 stars and loved having her for this class, which is probably obvious by the fact that I signed up for her Creative Serging* and Designer Jeans* classes (more on those in the future).

First let me mention the Craftsy platform.  The video quality is great.  I watched with Google Chrome as I kept getting stuttering with IE, maybe now with IE11 that won’t be such a problem.  You can make notes to yourself, ask the instructor questions, and the video comes right back to where you left off (unless you choose a different lesson).  I really like that I can go back again and again to view the videos and ask questions.  I’ve found the Craftsy staff to be responsive and have great customer service.  The only thing I wish they would add would be the ability to easily download the videos for viewing offline or in areas of slow connection speeds.  I recommend giving the Craftsy platform a try.

Now, about the actual class.

The following lessons are part of this course:

Lesson (length of lesson in minutes:seconds)

  • Intro (12:06)
  • Hemming Pants (32:28)
  • Lengthening Pants (17:44)
  • Hemming Jeans (31:46)
  • Skirts (39:53)
  • Taking in the Waistline (27:49)
  • Knit Tops & T-shirts (32:24)
  • Altering Shoulders & Armholes (55:43)
  • Sleeve Length on a Jacket (54:24)
  • Hidden Zippers (36:38)

While you won’t need anything to start watching (other than your computer), there is a list of supplies recommend to successfully do the techniques taught:

  • wax chalk*
  • clay chalk*
  • 2″ bias tape (for one of the lengthening pants methods)
  • 220 grit sandpaper (for distressing jeans if desired)
  •  block sander (also for distressing jeans)
  • measuring tape
  • press cloth (cotton muslin or silk organza will work for most things)
  • sewing gauge
  • clapper*
  • glass head pins*
  • seam ripper*
  • hammer (for pounding jean seams for easier sewing)
  • sewing machine needles for your particular fabrics

Optional supplies:

Singer blind hem attachment
My blind stitch attachment for my Singer 201k is used for blind hemming pants and skirts.


Most of these are just basic sewing supplies that you probably already have if you’ve sewn clothes for any length of time.  If not, you can pick most up at a local JoAnn’s or other fabric store (I’ve also put links for some items on Amazon, mostly through WAWAK.  You could also go to the WAWAK site too.)  I found my clapper, sleeve board, and pressing ham at local thrift stores, so be sure to check local sources too.




If you’re serious about sewing clothes, or just need to always alter your store bought ones, you’ll want to gradually build your stock of tools…you don’t need to do it all at once though.

You’ll also want a blind hemmer foot for your machine (although you certainly could do a blind stitch by hand).  I use a blind hem attachment on my Singer 201 for hemming slacks and get excellent results (found it on Ebay).

The course covers the main basic or beginner alterations in ready-to-wear (RTW) and it covers this well.  The alterations presented were ones that you would typically see on a regular basis without going into techniques that would be too advanced for the average non-professional (you won’t learn to rework that men’s suit in this class), but I did feel that the course material laid a good foundation for those looking to get into the alterations business or for those who do a lot of alterations for themselves or families.  (I know in this house we do a lot of pant hemming!)  I know of women who just hem pants for a living, so you really don’t need a lot to get started if you want to go professional either.

Angela used contrasting threads when demonstrating techniques so that watchers could see what was being sewn more easily.  She also gave alternative ideas, tips, and suggestions for achieving a more professional look to your alteration.  For instance, using steam and a clapper to get that nice crease in your pants and hems.  I know I gained a new level of appreciation for that little block of wood!  I also appreciated that the lessons on pant hemming and lengthening showed the correct lengths and styles for current trends, something I’m always wondering about.

invisible zippers
Invisible zippers are found on most ready-to-wear skirts and dresses today. Knowing how to replace a broken one can save your favorite dress.

Speaking of pant hemming…did you notice that there were three lessons for altering pant length! (Okay, so at 5’2″ I probably won’t use the lengthening pants lesson much, but I was glad to see it included for those who would.)  I loved the thorough step-by-step instructions that Angela gave on blind hemming as the whole flip up thing can get confusing.  The instructions for hemming jeans but keeping the original hem finish were wonderful for letting you keep that designer hem, but not have your jeans dragging along the ground!  I’ve used the pant hemming instructions a few times since the class and I get consistently professional results, which is what I want.  The fact that I’m saving $30 a pair, doesn’t hurt my feelings either.

Angela shows you how to properly mark and hem a skirt so that you don’t end up with the back higher than the front due to tummy or bum fullness.  I see this a lot on women and every time I just want to fiddle with their hems.  It just looks funny!  There were lots of great tips and techniques throughout the class including how to hem those business skirts with their linings.  No excuses for going to that job interview looking less than professional now!

The need to replace an invisible or hidden zipper is something you’ll probably run into at some point, they seem to break at the worst times.  Angela made a good point too, about the fact that you can often find heavily discounted clothing at high-end stores that would be perfectly good if the zipper was replaced, something you can do yourself for less than $2.  Oh, and by the way, she shows you how to sew the invisible zipper with a regular zipper foot…no need for a specialty foot!

Curvy girls will appreciate knowing how to take in the waistband without it looking obvious so they can buy their pants to fit their hips, but alter to fit their smaller waists and those who go to a lot of events wearing those lovely shift dresses will appreciate the armhole/shoulder lesson that teach you how to lift the shoulder so that the shoulder line is in the correct location and the dress doesn’t do that little fold at the bust for lack of fit at the shoulder.  (It’s amazing how proper fit in the shoulders and bust make your posture look better!)  Angela not only shows the adjustments needed, but also how to open up a lined dress and how to close it back up so that you can’t tell.  The whole class is that way—the complete alteration shown from start to finish, not just an isolated technique on one seam or area in the middle of an alteration job.

I loved the idea of taking those boxy team and event t-shirts and feminizing them a bit too!

I appreciated that none of the techniques were actually difficult, or costly, so once you learn them, it shouldn’t be a problem to get great results for your efforts.  Sometimes you get into a class only to discover that you need to buy a bunch of expensive tools or materials, but this one was different.  This class was about using basic tools to do professional work.  Clearly, I’ll use the hemming lessons the most as my family isn’t on the tall side (except for that skyscraper of a brother), but sooner or later, I’ll use them all–I can even use these techniques on clothing I make myself (a professional finish makes a huge difference between looking homemade and looking custom).  While I’m hoping there will be additional alteration classes with intermediate and advanced techniques, I’ve already made $50 using some of this class, with more jobs lined up, so its paid for itself which makes me happy!  Even better is the $$ I’ll save doing these alterations myself!


*These are affiliate links.
Online Sewing Class

Scrap Attack: Organizing and Controlling the Scrap Pile

posted in: Quilts and Blankets | 0

The fabric scrap basket (or bin, or tote, or box, or pile) is something that comes with the territory when one quilts.  Those little leftover bits accumulate over time.  If you have a stash, you will have scraps, it is inevitable.  The question is always, what to do with those pieces of extra fabric.

new years resolution project
Look at that—instructions or photos of projects to go with the bags, labeled bags, paper piecing foundations printed, master list, fabric scraps cut into block parts!

How to organize one’s leftovers is probably as individual as the quilter.  Some have boxes or drawers that are sorted by color, some immediately cut and sort by size, and some, like myself, toss it in a pile by fabric type to be dealt with later.  Later always sounds good, but it always leads to a big ol’ pile of mish mash fabric.  Then I’m left wondering…do I cut it up into squares or particular quilt block pieces, or do I wait, just in case I need some of it for a future project?

Now, I’m really good about cutting up all of the fabric I get from upcycling denim or corduroy pants.  Everything gets deconstructed and then wacked up into squares starting with 6.5 inch and working all the way down to 2 inch (anything smaller than that starts to get too bulky when sewn and seams start to add up).  I cut as many of the largest size first, then move down each size cutting all that I can with that size until I need to go down 1/2 inch to the next square size.  Everything is bagged and tagged by size.  I figure I can always cut a square smaller if needed or into a different shape.  Then when I feel like sewing up a new quilt, I can just pull out squares, arrange and go.  Cutting squares is relaxing (no complicated math required here) and they’re versatile—you can get a lot of different designs from simple squares, or blocks made from squares (such as half square triangles and snowballs).  I like to mix my denim with corduroy and flannel too.  Which is why, when I’m done with a flannel quilt project, the leftovers usually get cut into squares with extra bits thrown in the flannel sack.

But, then I get to the regular quilting cotton.  I’m always using little scraps for crafts, paper piecing and such, so I almost hate to precut the scraps…just in case.  But that kind of thinking has resulted in several small bags and one large basket of scraps ranging from 1″ to about 1/2 of a fat quarter.  All colors and styles just mixed up together.

Now, last year, one of my resolutions was to organize the cotton scraps by size.  Which I did (yay, me!).  However, I still have those bags to deal with.  So this year’s resolution is to choose scrap quilt designs that I want to do and start cutting and bagging, just like what I started doing with the black and white fabrics this summer.  I’m not going to worry about what ifs, I’m just going to do it.  (deep breath, release)  There is also no obligation to actually get them all sewn right away either, as it will take awhile before I have enough for each quilt project anyway–this is just about controlling the pile in an organized manner.  By the way, this is a great project for tv time or visiting with family.

I’ve made my list, carefully writing down which colors and sizes I need for each.  I’ve got my Sharpie marker and zippy bags ready to go and a fresh blade on the rotary cutter.  Any extra fabric not needed for a particular pattern will get cut into 2.5 inch squares or strips.  There are so many designs using strips and 2.5 squares that those have a lot of versatility, making them great choices for the extras.  Anything tiny that will make a 1 inch square will become part of the 1 inch square pile (more on that in the future) and those that don’t quite measure up can be thrown in the bag for fusible applique parts (tiny beaks or eyes or something).  What are some of the quilts on the list?

  • churn dash—in greens
  • rolling stone–in blues
  • scrap vomit–Christmas scraps
  • Japanese + and x—scrappy, also one in flannel
  • Granny’s front porch–scrappy
  • Tallahassee block–brights
  • Right Hand of Friendship block–civil war repro or darker fabrics
  • tumbler–black and white
  • bow tie–black and white

So, how are you organizing your scrap pile?


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