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Sewing Tool Carrier

I don’t know about you, but I occasionally take sewing classes and must carry seemingly all my worldly possessions to the class, because heaven forbid that I need something I have one of at home. Getting things to class is sometimes a challenge, but I recently found a great little “wallet” that takes care of the small stuff nicely.

The wallet is designed by Barbara Weiland, whose name you may recognize as a noted sewing author and editor. Her pattern company, Jo-Lydia’s Attic, offers three new totes and this favorite Sewer’s Wallet is one of them. Not only is it handy to corral small tools, but it’s also great for traveling, as the pockets are sized perfectly for a passport, boarding pass and a little currency. The neck strap keeps it safe, even if you’re sound asleep on the plane.

These little wallets make great gifts for sewing (and traveling) friends as well, and you can make them with scraps from your stash. I made one from nylon outerwear fabric for a friend that skis, and another in a cute animal print for my vet to hold her pen and prescription pad, and a couple of dog treats!

Homemade gifts are so fun to do this time of year, but I actually like to start early in the year to avoid the holiday crunch, so in just a few weeks I’ll be doing some planning for gift-sewing ’09!

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Notion Commotion

CloverIt’s not everyday that I get really excited about a new sewing notion, but today one arrived at my door that I’m quite smitten with. It’s the new Clover 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge, designed by Nancy Zieman. This handy tool does the basics of measuring and spacing buttonholes, but the two things I find great about it are that the slider locks in place, so it doesn’t slip while you’re trying to mark or measure, and secondly, it offers the capability of a compass.

The compass or arc drawing is accomplished by using the small wheel on the lower end of the gauge. There’s a center hole where you place the pin or awl (this becomes the center of the circle), and then you place the pencil point through the hole in the slider once it’s locked at the radius you want (numbers are marked on the gauge as well). Then rotate the ruler as you draw a perfect arc or circle. If this doesn’t make sense, note that the tool comes with clear instructions!

The only thing about this nifty notion is that you must remember some basic high-school level math…the difference between a radius and the diameter. (Hint: the radius is half the diameter. Whew–how long has it been since I had to say that formula?)

So, if you’re looking for a great stocking stuffer for your own list, or something fun to share with sewing friends, this is a wonderfully worthy find!

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Wrapping Gifts with Fabric

Gift wrapping–you either love it or hate it! My husband hates it, mostly because I tend to demand square corners and paper patterns on grain with the box shaping (OK, perhaps it’s a bit too much to expect). I love wrapping, and once had a job when I was in high school in the gift-wrap dept. of a local department store.

A few years ago I decided to start using my boxes of holiday fabrics to make gift bags in various sizes that could be reused from year to year and recipient to recipient. That worked out well, but they all seemed to leave our immediate family, so each year I made more and more of them. This year I decided to try something different.

I found a great book titled Gift Wrapping with Textiles: Stylish Ideas from Japan by Chizuko Morita. Goodness knows I have enough fabric to play with, so I skimmed the pages of elegant Japanese wrapping techniques and went for it. The first time I tried it necessitated a re-do, as I wasn’t diligent about following the instructions. But the book shows great step-by-step photos and it’s actually quite easy to produce some rather elaborate looking disguises for gifts. There are lots of large color photos throughout the text to inspire you.

Some of the wraps are double-layer, others are serge-finished single layers, but you could also use a no-sew technique and fuse under the raw edges.

The wraps vary by the size and shape of the gift, but they’re so easy they’d make great kid’s projects as well. And the fun part is that the recipient gets the fabric for a secondary use after they open the present.

One trick I did find helpful–in some instances you wish you had three hands to help hold things properly, so I used a bit of my temporary spray adhesive to hold layers in place. It doesn’t harm anything and dissipates in short order. In the meantime, it provided staying power for beautiful gift wrapping.

So, as they say in the movie and TV industry–it’s a wrap! Check out this great book for year-round fun.

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Sewing Jewelry

With the thoughts of turkey waning, and the Black Friday melee over, we’re now on the hunt for the perfect gifts for friends and family. I have several friends I like to remember with something that has a sewing-related theme to it. Over the years I’ve made small gifts from fabrics showcasing spools, zippers and funky sewing girls, and I still have many of those remnants in my stash, but this year I’m on the hunt for some sewing-related jewelry. So, whether it’s for a best-friend sewing buddy, or for a secret sister at your guild neighborhood group, here are some ideas to check out.

Pure Whimsy Lapel Pins

Lapel Pins from Pure Whimsy

Pure Whimsy has a some fun pins–from zippers, scissors and thimble shapes to dress forms with dangling charms. There’s also a crafter’s version if you have friends or family that don’t sew, but are craft mavens.

Hand and Hammer has one of my all-time favorite pieces of sewing jewelry–a sterling silver bracelet that boasts “My Stash is Bigger than Your Stash.” It’s hidden on the site under knitting jewelry, so click on the link to access it directly.

Thimbles, Etc.

Thimbles, Etc. offers some heirloom pieces including custom thimbles, silver thimble cages and heirloom chatelaines. The latter comes as a kit–in case you run out of time, you’re clever friend can construct their own! One of my favorites from this site is a button bracelet kit that you can embellish with buttons from your collection. Perhaps those buttons tell a story, or they’re simply fun leftovers from other projects.

Note: While you’re visiting these sites, perhaps you want to put something on your own holiday list, or e-mail your significant other with a link to a gift you’d love to have. It doesn’t hurt to leave detailed hints, I’ve found.

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Sewing Questions and Answers

I’ve received several sewing questions, and many really can’t be answered in a blog format, as they require a full how-to story with diagrams or photos and detailed instructions. However, below are answers to some easier ones:

Does a rag doll have hair all around its head or just in front? The answer to this one depends upon the doll. Some have full heads of hair like Raggedy Ann, but others have just a fringe of hair around their faces. Some have hair pulled into braids. If a doll is wearing a hat, like Raggedy Andy, place the hair only outside the hat area. As with people, hair styling depends on the look you like!

Can I sew upholstery on my regular sewing machine? Many machines can handle upholstery-weight fabrics using a large needle and heavy thread. If there’s a way to slow the machine speed, that can be helpful as well. A walking foot helps keep layers from shifting. If you sew upholstery on a regular basis, I’d suggest an industrial machine with a heavier motor than a conventional home machine.

How can I buy fabric wholesale? Depending on the quantity of fabric you need and whether or not you have a business license and resale number, a distributor may be able to help you. Some sell half-bolts, which are about 12 yards of fabric, while others require full-bolt purchases. Check with a fabric distributor for their buying policies (check your Yellow Pages or an online search engine for “fabric distributors” to find one near you). If you simply sew for yourself, buying fabric in quantities like this probably isn’t the answer–simply watch for sales and coupons to your local retailer. Some retailers will offer a discount if you buy an entire bolt of fabric.

Where can I find patterns for teddy bear clothes? Check the craft tabs in your favorite pattern books. Most companies that offer stuffed animal patterns also offer clothing patterns too. Sometimes doll clothes patterns will also fit stuffed animals. An online search turns up several independent companies with teddy bear clothes patterns.

More answers in upcoming blog entries….