Posts Tagged ‘sewing tools’

A Matter of Priorities

January 13th, 2013

A month or two ago, as I was coming home from a shopping trip to JoAnn’s Fabric and Crafts, I was stopped by a police officer. No, I didn’t get a traffic ticket. I was trying to turn left and go up the hill to get to our house. The policeman told me about an accident. At the bottom of the hill, a crew had been doing maintenance work on our water lines. They had accidentally broken a gas line.

I looked down the road passed the officer, and I could see something coming out of a pipe. Whatever it was that was pouring out, almost flowed like water. However, the street wasn’t getting any wetter, and there was a strong smell of gas in the air. The policeman told me that I could go home, but if the wind changed, I would have to leave again.

When I got home and told my husband about the leak, we decided to leave for a while. We stuffed our two cats into their cat carriers and went out to lunch. The only thing besides the cats that we took with us was my husband’s laptop.

I didn’t really think that our house would  burn down, but I still worried a little that it might. We have insurance, of course, but it would be very traumatic to lose our house and everything in it. I kept thinking about the things in the house that it would be hard or impossible to replace.

One thing that my mind kept going back to was my twenty year old Bernina sewing machine. I have had it a long time, but it is still one of my favorite worldly possessions. My Bernina and I make a great team. I know how it works, and it knows how to sew for me. If anything like this incident happens again, the cats still have top priority, but I think that I will take my Bernina along, too.

Sewing Machines

Transferring Pattern Markings to Fabric Part II

February 13th, 2011

Last week I wrote about choosing pens and pencils to use when transferring pattern markings to fabric.  After you have chosen a writing instrument, you can decide the best method to transfer pattern markings to your fabric. I have listed several of my favorite techniques below. One of the methods discussed requires scissors rather than pens and pencils.

Tracing Markings

Complicated markings such as a doll face to be colored may need to be traced. I have had success with three tracing methods.

If you don’t have other equipment, hold the pattern and fabric up to a window to trace markings. This method is easier if the pattern and fabric are held to the window with drafting tape. (I think masking tape is too strong.)

A clear plastic box picture frame works fairly well when tracing pattern markings. Light should be behind the pattern that you are tracing. The plastic box can be propped up at an angle rather than resting flat on a table. Another solution is to have a battery powered light under the plastic frame.

My favorite tracing method is a light box or table. I bought a small inexpensive one years ago. Larger ones may be fairly pricey. I use a small amount of drafting tape to hold the pattern and fabric to my light box.

Clipping fabric

Sometimes you can use your scissors to mark fabric.

Cut out the small notches in the seam allowance that are used to help match fabric pieces. You can make a small clip in the middle of each notch if you prefer.

Cutting out Parts of a Paper Pattern

Sometimes you can cut out part of a pattern piece and use it as a stencil to mark you fabric.


Rather than tracing darts you can make a second copy of a pattern piece.

Cut the dart shape out of the pattern.

Place the pattern on the fabric piece to be marked.

Trace the dart where it belongs on the pattern.


Pull a pin with a small metal head through the dot on the paper pattern.

Put the pattern on the fabric to be marked.

Use a pen or pencil to mark the fabric through the hole in the pattern.

sewing tips ,

Transferring Pattern Markings to Fabric Part I

February 6th, 2011


This week I am going to write about choosing pens and pencils for marking fabric. Next week I will discuss methods for accurately transferring pattern markings to fabric. My short cuts work for small doll size projects. They may not work for people size projects. You can find other more traditional methods for marking fabric in sewing handbooks. 

A thin line air soluble (vanishing ink) pen works well for marking on the right side of the fabric. I find that the thicker line air soluble pens are not precise enough for marking small size sewing projects. Mark with this thin type of pen just before sewing, because it disappears quickly. Sometimes the markings will last a few hours or a few days zipped in an air tight plastic bag. The length of time the marking lasts depends on the age of the pen and the amount of humidity in the air.

For marks on the wrong side of the fabric and marks for embroidery designs, I like to use Prismacolor pencils. They wash out easily.  I keep a sharp point on these pencils to help mark the fabric accurately.

Your can also purchase various colored chalks or try a marking wheel and transfer paper.

I like the thin air soluble pen and Prismacolor pencils, because I get a very precise mark from them.

sewing tips ,

The Pressing Needs of Doll Dressmaking

January 30th, 2011


Sewers know how important it is to press seams during the construction of fabric projects. In addition to a steam iron and full size ironing board I have several other things to help with pressing doll size garments. One gadget was made especially for doll dressmaking.  I have adapted the other things to help me sew for dolls.

I have a small ironing board that is made for pressing doll clothes. I find it very useful. It makes pressing little sleeves and hems easier.

A sleeve roll is sometimes a good choice for pressing small sewing projects, because small pieces can be pinned to it. I plush the pins straight down into the roll as if it were a pin cushion. The pins are difficult to see in this picture, because I used flat head silk pins to make pressing easier.

I use light card board strips to help me accurately press under fabric widths. Cut one half inch wide strips from a 5 x 8 inch index card printed with a one fourth inch grid. To accurately press under a one half inch of fabric pull the edge of fabric over the card board strip and press. To press under a one fourth inch of fabric pull the fabric to the one fourth inch line on the card board strip and press.

sewing tips

Thoughts on Sewing Machines and their Accessories

January 23rd, 2011


It is much easier to sew small doll clothes and cloth dolls if you use a sewing machine with controllable speed. A sewing machine that only has a fast speed is hard to maneuver while you are sewing short seams and small curves. 

Two sewing machine feet that are very useful for sewing dolls and doll clothes are and open embroidery foot and a patchwork foot.

I use an open embroidery foot when I am sewing a traced shape such as an arm or leg for a cloth doll. The foot’s openness makes the line easy to see.

The patchwork foot is made for quilters, but it is great for sewing quarter inch seam allowances on doll clothes.

I have an ott-lite on my sewing table. It helps me to see the traced shapes that I am stitching with my open embroidery foot.

getting organized

More Gadgets

January 16th, 2011


I blogged about sewing tools that I think are important a few weeks ago. Here are some more helpful gadgets. 

There are two different point turners in the picture. The one is at the top of the picture is helpful when turning curved fabric pieces. The bottom turner is helpful for defining sharp angles. Both turners can help define points. The second tool from the top is a hemostat. It is very helpful for turning small fabric pieces and stuffing dolls and toys. I use my small scissors for clipping seams and for delicate trimming. I need to use the seam ripper more often than I like to admit. The bodkin has appeared in my blog before. It makes it easy to insert elastic into a casing.

The picture shows a small set of small tools that makes sewing easier and more fun.

sewing tips

Important Sewing Tools

January 2nd, 2011


I like sewing gadgets. I keep them in boxes and drawers all over my sewing room. If I had to decide on the most important sewing tools without listing the sewing machine itself, I would say: dressmaker scissors, an assortment of pins and a pin cushion, an assortment of hand sewing needles, a thimble, and a tape measure.


It is important that scissors are sharp and well made. I have both Gingher and Fiskars dressmaker shears. I can recommend either pair.

I usually use glass head silk pins, but sometimes I use silk pins with a smaller metal head. I have an over sized tomato pin cushion and now a globe pin cushion made from the free pattern  offered on this website. (see patterns)

I have an assortment of hand sewing needles. Different sewing jobs need different size needles.

Not everyone uses a thimble, but I can’t get along without one.


Along with my regular width tape measure I have a narrow tape measure made to use for doll making.

I have a few more tools that I use frequently. I have even more gadgets that I enjoy using at times. The six tools that I have named are the ones that I would list if I were playing the what to take to a desert island game for sewing tools.

sewing tips

Stringing Fabric Along

December 12th, 2010

Last week I was sewing several items of doll clothing at one time. First I applied lace to several pieces of knit fabric to make doll underwear. I did not cut the lace between fabric pieces, but sewed a long string of fabric pieces on a length of lace. My husband wandered into my sewing room and commented on my technique. I explained that this was a known technique. I had not invented it. I read about it in a doll making magazine. I also had a friend who used the technique to sew for her daughters. The technique is helpful at this time of year, when there are so many demands on our time.

The method can be used for more things than applying lace. More than one seam or dart can be sewn at one time.The trick is to line up as many items as you have, and do as much sewing as you can without cutting the machine thread. Then cut the fabric string apart and do as much ironing as you can before going on to the next string of sewing.

This string of fabric pieces is on its way to becoming doll panties and camisoles.


getting organized, sewing tips ,

More on Printing on Fabric and a New Free Pattern

October 3rd, 2010


This past week my husband and I finished the globe pin cushion project that was discussed in last week’s blog. We treated a piece of white cotton broadcloth with Bubble Jet Set 2000. This product is a liquid available on line. After the treated fabric had dried, we cut a sheet of freezer paper to the size of printer paper and ironed this sheet to our treated fabric. We trimmed our fabric and printed the globe pattern on it. The homemade fabric sheet worked fairly well, although we found that the printed colors faded more than the colors on the commercial printable sheets that were discussed last week.

Anyone who is interested in making the globe pin cushion can download a copy from this website. Click on the pattern button at the top of the page and then on the pin cushion picture. The instructions are in inches rather than metric measurements. The files are made to be printed on US rather than metric printer paper. I hope that the pattern will be usable for anyone who is interested in it. If you have any questions, please email me or make a comment on the blog.

my patterns, sewing tips ,

Inserting Elastic into a Casing

August 8th, 2010


I used to spend a lot of time fussing with elastic when a pattern had an elastic casing. With the method I use now I am finished with the elastic in no time.

For doll clothes I always use one eighth inch elastic and my favorite bodkin.   

Use the whole length of elastic. Do not cut the elastic until it is secured on both sides of the casing.

If a seam is inside the casing, the two seam edges should have been finished together and pressed to one side. The bodkin should travel over the stitching first and then over the finished seam.


Pull the elastic through the casing with the bodkin. 

Release the elastic from the bodkin and secure the released end to the casing by sewing through it several times. 

Check the pattern instructions for measurement. Gather the casing fabric over the elastic to the desired length without stretching the elastic. 

Try the garment on to check the size.  

Secure the second side of the elastic to the second casing opening by sewing through it and the casing several times.  

Cut off the excess elastic.

sewing tips