Thursday, November 9, 2017

Christmas Stocking Sewing Tips

November’s here, and I’m sure you have lots to do before the holidays, but there’s still time to make Christmas stockings.

No, this isn't a tutorial, just a few tips from a longtime sewer.

For stocking patterns, you can find any number online, anything from plain unembellished to perky-toe jester stockings.

Amy at Positively Splendid made hers small enough to hold flatware, but I like the curvy shape so adapted it for big stockings.

Image by Amy at Positively Splendid

It was easy enough to enlarge on my printer. I can’t remember how much bigger I made it; I’ve been using it for several years. I just kept making it larger until it looked big enough, then moved the pattern around until I had several bits I could tape together to make a whole. The finished stocking made from my pattern works out to be 6” wide at the top, 15” from top to toe and 9 1/2" wide at the bottom.

For putting the stocking together, I found this technique at Diary of a Quilter.

Image by Amy at Diary of a Quilter

This method works great with a lined, uncuffed stocking, like this.


For a simple straight cuff, here's another easy method from Sew Like My Mom.

Image by Melissa at Sew Like My Mom

This will be my new go-to for straight cuffs, but that’s not how I did this one.


I used the old put-all-the-parts-together-and-stitch-one-great-honking-seam-all-the-way-around technique. Like this.

Source Vanilla Joy

The jester style cuff on this stocking came from a pattern I found at Sew 4 Home.


It didn’t fit my preferred stocking pattern so I adapted it my own way, with ruler and pencil. Enlarging with the printer would have been easier, but that would have required leaving the studio and coming back into the house. I had to weigh drawing with a pencil and paper against walking the 50 feet or so back into the house. What can I say? I'm a slug.

I drew out the pattern for this scalloped cuff too. I cut it from felted wool and didn't have to sew curves. Easy peasy.


This cuff was also from Sew4Home. Theirs has the point at the back; I put mine in the front. (The only alteration I had to make to fit this to my stocking pattern was to use slightly wider seams on the stocking. No biggie.)


I’ve used a number of upcycled fabrics for my stockings: the herringbone wool of the scalloped cuff stocking and the blue and brown wool with the hopsack cuff stocking were both found at the thrift store. The crewel for this stocking


and the jester-cuffed plaid above were upholstery samples; this cream wool


was a leftover bit of felted wool blanket, the one with the girl in the blue dress was made from pieces of embroidered doilies sewn to a muslin base, and the crimson velvet was made from an old table runner. The only new bit of fabric I used was the hopsacking on the blue wool.

For embellishment, I love the look of pompoms. I’ve tried a few methods in my time and have discarded them all for a tool I can always find: my hand. For small poms, I wrap the yarn around 2 of my fingers as many times as will give me the size I need. For larger poms, I use 4 fingers.

When adding poms to cuff points, I thread a strand of yarn onto an upholstery needle and stitch through the point. After wrapping around my fingers, I use the threaded yarn to tie the pom off, trim with cuticle scissors (The curved blades are perfect for this.), and voilà!

Tassels would also make good embellishments, as would trim. Or buttons as I did in the cream wool stocking.

Any sewer knows the imperative to iron the seams. It's as necessary in making stockings as in any other project, though not always as easy. I keep an iron on a small table next to my sewing machine, but I also keep a flat iron (hair straightener) nearby. It makes a handy small seam presser.

I made the small ham ages ago and it's bedraggled, but it works. (I have a large one as well, just don't need it often enough to keep it handy.) It'll fit for ironing in the cuff and top part of the stocking, but for the rest I use a rolled-up fragment of fabric--muslin works great.

Clipping curves is also important in stocking making. The pattern I use has lots of innies and outies.

Sometimes you just can't get around having to sew through varying thicknesses of fabric. There are tools you can buy that help with that, i.e. Hump Jumper and Jean-A-Ma-Jig.

Or you can make your own. I bought a Jean-A-Ma-Jig years ago for hemming jeans; it works great, when I can find it. (You see a thread here?) And when I'm sewing I don't want to put everything aside to search. So I fold a bit of printer paper until it’s as thick as I need, wrap it in washi tape and cut out a slit for my needle. Works as well as a purchased tool, better than a purchased tool I can't find!

Finally, a bodkin’s great for turning the tube that becomes your loop, but if you don’t have one, you can use a safety pin. Or follow the directions found here.

Source So Sew Easy

I haven’t tried this--I do have a bodkin, but you know my constant complaint: in my studio, tools are rarely where they should be. My back-up has always been a safety pin, but I think I will give this a try next time my bodkin disappears!

This has been a long, photo-filled post--mostly because I wanted to show off my stockings--but I hope my tips will help someone along the way. Maybe putting them all in one place so you don't have to search the 'net for each and every one will be a good thing.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Free Motion Quilted, Dye-Painted Tea Cozy

As a native Texan, I grew up drinking sweetened iced tea, but I spent my early married years in Pittsburgh PA where I became a hot tea drinker. Along the way, I learned to love tea cozies.

 Let me show you my latest.

Whenever I thrift shop, I invariably check the linens/crafts area of our local library thrift store. I've found some wonderful pieces there: hand-sewn and appliquéd quilt blocks, needlepoints, cross-stitch samplers. Recently I picked up a quilter's discarded vest project. She'd free-motion quilted and then dye-painted the front panels and then did tests of channel quilting and free motion quilting on pieces of muslin for the back. I don't know why she discarded it. Maybe she didn't. We have a high population of elderly in our area, which is why I find so many good things. Survivors have no idea what to with the left-behinds, especially hand-work, more especially unfinished hand-work.

I had to add some small pieces to the side to make the piece big enough for a small cozy. Even then, it's not that large, a 2-cupper.

This isn't a great shot, but you can see I channel quilted the sides with a narrower quilting than the piece I used for the back. I did this on both sides.

For that, I used the largest piece the original quilter made--the channel quilting. I had to add a small piece to each side of this as well, but that was caught up in the seam. 

Then I made a tab out of stash muslin. You can't even tell it's a different dye lot. (Maybe it isn't. Very likely the original quilter bought hers the same place I bought mine and maybe even from the same bolt. Is that eerie, or what?)

I didn't line the cozy. The back was quilted with batting, the front with a padding.

Kinda cool innerds, innit?

Here she is again, the final product. Don't you think it has a charm to it? The original quilter's work wasn't perfect, the dyeing is just a tad off-kilter but it has an enchanted modern-art feel to it. It's currently listed in my Etsy shop here.

And I still have enough to make another, though next time I think I'll go for a 4-cupper.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lidded Origami Square Twisted Box

Many years ago, my friend Kathy made this origami box and gifted it to me. I was properly amazed; I still am. It's a gorgeous box.

Another view.

And yet another.

By the time I decided to make one myself, Kathy couldn't remember in which Tomoko Fuse book she found the instructions. (And there are so many of them!) It was only after she came down with the early stages of Alzheimer's that I realized I had to do it on my own.

It took a lot of looking before I even found what the box was called. The most used name appears to be square twisted box. 

I was unable to find instructions for the finishing details so, using Kathy's box as a model, I developed something similar.

These are my three most recent. Mine still aren't as good as hers (everything she made looked professionally done), but perhaps eventually, with a little practice they might one day be close enough.

 For the instructions:

These are mostly the tools I used. You'll need a sheet of patterned paper (I used double-sided scrapbook paper but single-sided eases over corners better), cardboard (I used the back of a desktop calendar. You want something with a bit of substance, i.e. the back of a tablet), a glue stick, bulldog paper clips, needles and thread (I used both a tapestry and a beading needle). I show linen beading thread here, but I actually only used it on one of the boxes; for the other two, I used regular black sewing thread. Also, I've shown a corner rounder but this one doesn't cut through cardboard so I rounded mine with scissors.

First, make a box following this tutorial. I start with a 5 1/4" x 7 1/2" rectangle of double-sided scrap book paper. (Note: whatever pattern is facing up when you begin to fold your paper will be the predominant pattern of the box.)


For the finishing details: Cut three squares of cardboard: one to the exact measurement of the bottom square, another a tidge smaller than the box opening (it should fit inside), and one that's approximately 1/2" larger on both sides than your opening. Mine usually work out to be 3" for the lid, 2 1/2" for the bottom and a bit smaller to fit in the opening. 

Round the corners on all three squares.

Cut a piece of patterned paper about 1/2" larger for the first and second pieces of cardboard and approximately 3/4" larger for the third. I make the top of the lid the same color/pattern as the predominant color/pattern of the box, the bottom of the lid and the bottom of the box the color/pattern on the bottom of the box.

Glue the cardboard, centered, to the paper square.

Start by gluing the corners on each end of one side. I swipe the glue over the corner, then pull the glued section onto the cardboard, then finesse the edges in little pleats until I create a roundness, gluing as I go. Believe me, even though this appears difficult, in the long run it's better than squared corners. With squared corners, the cardboard tends to poke through the paper.  

Pretend you're upholstering chair seats and ease the paper over.

Do one side/two corners at a time.

Complete all four sides.

Secure with paper clips until dry.

Glue paper in this manner onto all three cardboard squares. Then glue a finished square onto the bottom of your opened paper box. At this point, you can clamp it on two sides or weight it with a something heavy, i.e. a book.

Determine the center of the lid cardboard by measuring corner to corner and drawing an X.

Make holes all the way through both the cardboard and the paper, using a tapestry needle.

Attach your choice of buttons and beads. 

Once you've sewn on your button/bead knob, glue the square that was sized to fit inside the box opening to the one made as a lid, clamping until glue dries. 

Voila! You've finished your box.

These make great presentation boxes for jewelry. I put little  pillows inside mine (sized 2 1/2" sq. with an envelope back and stuffed with polyfil). They would be wonderful as wedding favors made with wedding gift wrap or kraft paper.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Tribute to Max

Two months ago, we lost our marmalade cat, Max. He'd been with us since October 13, 2001 when he showed up at my sister's house, a hungry, flea-ridden, feral stray. According to the vet at the time, he was three to four months old.

I'll never forget that first night, after we took him home, he crawled into my lap while I was eating popcorn and took a piece from me. I think it was the last time he ever ate anything so banal. He quickly became a very picky eater. What can I say? He was a cat, and he held us both in one pad of his paw.

Most of our photos from his early years are prints, but here are a few that are presently in my computer. This was our old house; he liked looking out at the street from this chair, though here he's actually sleeping. He was a long kitty and hadn't yet grown into his length.

Some of these are from my phone. I never got good shots of my kitchen window in the afternoon sun but Max didn't care what time of day he was being cute; he had to check into whatever plant I brought home. 

Even a fake Christmas tree.

This is one of my favorite shots. Who me? On what counter? 

Isn't a wooden chopping block exactly the place a big old cat ought be?

Anyplace was fine for Max.

Especially in a patch of sun.

Or a pile of pillows.

Or a big ol' pile of pillows.

"Since I'm here, I might as well get comfy."

I will miss you, Max.