Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sewing the Straight and Narrow

Pre and Post- sewing solutions
Full disclosure here: I am by no means an excellent seamstress. Yeah, I've done some really nice projects, like footie pajamas and aprons but most of the time I start guessing the correct way to do things and I'm sure I end up breaking several unspoken sewing commandments.

 I always tell my fiancé that sewing is like driving- just press the pedal and steer straight. Well, to tell the truth if a sewing machine were a car I'd be pulled over doing field sobriety tests just pulling out of the driveway.

Thats right- I don't sew a straight line all that well  And most of the time, you wouldn't notice. I barely even noticed myself. Usually I'm sewing pajamas or other simple projects like aprons for my nieces with wide seam allowances with nothing in the project that amplifies my impairedness. So when I chose to make an optical illusion quilt (from this book), I learned just how drunken I seemed at the helm of my machine.

The quilt I chose requires sewing several long strips together, then cutting those blocks into strips and sewing them together another way. Some of these strips are nice and wide and quite forgiving to small errors. However, some of the strips are as small as 3/4". With 1/4" seams on both sides. Even taking too big of a breath while sewing can show on these areas of the blocks. 

The book has really good descriptions on how to cut very straight strips (another thing I didn't realize I did unsuccessfully).  It's a little tedious, but certainly plays into getting straight seams.

For sewing a straight seam, the author suggests using mole tape to guide your seams, placing it 1/4 inch from the seam.  However, I didn't want to go looking for mole tape (although it's probably easy to find at a pharmacy).  I was also afraid of it making my machine sticky or marking it, as well as the inconvenience of removing it and putting it on again if I changed projects (looks like I finally accepted the fact that my projects take me uh, just a little longer than planned, and maybe other things would get thrown in there in the meantime).

Needle moved over- you can see it doesn't line up with the red center mark anymore
My fiancé's mom suggested I use masking tape at the 1/4 inch mark, since it wouldn't mark my machine and I wouldn't need to remove it.  I tried this, but still didn't seem to get a very straight seam, since I couldn't really see the edge of the tape all the time.

Another suggestion from my fiancé's mom was to move the needle.  Sure enough, with a piece of graph paper I was able to determine that I needed to move my needle over 2.5 to the right to get a 1/4 inch seam along the edge of the plate.  For a little extra speed, I use my finger to help guide the seams.

Hopefully I'll have a completed project before we need a blanket again...

What tricks do you use to ensure straight, narrow seams?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Easy DIY Elmo Apron

My niece loves Elmo.  I try to make them aprons every year for Christmas (yes, this post has been in the queue for quite some time).  I didn't like any of the licensed fabric (okay, so maybe I didn't like the price of the licensed fabric...) and wanted something really fun for her.  So I decided to make my own Elmo template.
Photo from my sister-in-law

You will need:
Red apron
Small pieces of orange, white, and black fabric (thanks to our school mascot for being a tiger, I had scraps of all of these)
Some iron-on backing, whichever you prefer

1. Start with a print out of Elmo- I did a Google image search for Elmo and used the search tools to find a line drawing of just his face.  I copied the image to a publisher document and stretched it to fit an 8 1/2 x 11" piece of paper.  It's okay if the sides of his face are cut off.  You only need his eyes and mouth on one piece.

2. Cut out the pieces of Elmo's face. Fuse your backing to the pieces of black, white and orange fabric, ensuring you have enough space for each of the pieces on their appropriate color fabric.  You really don't need much.

3. Trace the pieces onto the backing.  Note: I did not flip the pieces when I did this- it didn't make a difference for Elmo, but might make a difference in other characters.  Remember you are tracing to the BACK of your material, so if you decide to do letters or something else with this same technique you will need to flip your paper over before tracing (or if you're tech savvy, flip it  on the computer before you print it).

4. Line up your pieces.  I used the white cutout to make sure the eye and nose pieces were centered.

5. Iron on according to your fusing material's instructions.

That's it!  I thought about stitching along the edges, but the fusing material held pretty well.  Another option would be to use puffy paint to outline it, but I thought it looked just fine without any extra work.  So easy and my niece was soooo excited about the apron!