My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Scissors March 31, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 11:47 pm
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You’re standing in the middle of your local fabric and or craft store.  You’re in the “notions” isle, which actually means nothing to you other than it says that on the big sign over head.




We covered most of them last time, so you should have a heads up on the basics.  But when you’re standing in the isle – there a million (and that may not be too far off?)  Which ones do you choose?  What will work best for my projects?  Can I use quilting pins if I’m not a quilter?  Why would anyone need pinking shears?  Why are there so many machine needles if there is “universal” needles?

Ah yes – I so get this!  At times I sit there and wonder some of the same things.  But mostly, “Why would you buy that nasty pink set?”

I’m only going to cover a few notions so you can soak it all in.  Mostly what you have already seen in the basic kit from last time.



Today we’ll talk Scissors –

You probably remember your mom even if she didn’t sew, yelling at you to not touch “the orange handled scissors!”  It’s ingrained into the minds of millions of kids everywhere who thought they could get away with cutting paper…. or hair, with mom’s “orange handled” scissors.  *GASP*  I swear this isn’t my bias for orange – it’s actually one of their ads for the company. 


Your basic "orange handled" scissors


As I see it you’ll need, should you continue to sew extensively, 3 pairs of basic scissors.  Your regular fabric cutting scissors, pinking shears and a small pair of thread cutting scissors.  Are all three absolutely necessary – no, of course not, but they do have a purpose and do make things easier. 

Your basic scissors can come in many styles, shapes, colors and materials.  Your kit will come with the cheapest pair of scissors possible.  They’ll do the job to get you started, butvery soon you’ll see why they’ll need to be changed out.  

"Fancy" Gingher scissors

The company that makes the “orange handled” scissors – Fiskars also makes Gingher .  Gingher I would say, is the “fancier” (read: more expensive) version.  But really it comes down to what feels good in your hand.  You may be cutting out yards and yards of fabric with these, so you want to make sure they feel right!  Some even have cushioned handles and spring loaded cutting now. 

This site can give you the low down on the different styles that you’ll want to check out in standard scissors for fabric.  There are other companies that make scissors (when I checked I think I saw about 50 or so), but these are great scissors that you’ll find in most stores (in the U.S. at least).  Don’t be afraid to try out other companies though!

Mainly you’ll want a pair that are slanted so you’re hand isn’t bent funny when you’re cutting and it keeps the fabric from raising too far off the cutting surface, keeping it from shifting around.  There are different sizes that you’ll need to feel out according to your hand size.  You’ll also want to make sure it’s not too heavy.  While the nice, smooth metal scissors feel good when you’re trying them out, I have a hard time with the weight after a while.  I know many folks who prefer the weight when cutting however, so you’ll definitely want to try them out (as best you can) before you spend too much on them!


Your basic "seamstress" scissors (9")


Pinking shears are scissors with little ridges on the cutting blades.  This is good to have when you’re cutting fabrics that fray (pull apart at the edges) easily, since they cut down on the amount of fraying.  These are also nice to make inside seams look nicer if they’re not finished otherwise.  You can also make nice designs for ribbons and other fabrics used as decoration on your sewn items.  Make sure they work smoothly or your hands will be killing you by the time you finish a project.






Thread cutting scissors or detail scissors are excellent to have around next to your sewing machine to cut the thread when you’re done sewing (if your machine doesn’t do this for you) or when you’re hand sewing so you don’t have to carry around your larger pair and for more detailed cutting when your larger scissors would get in the way or cut too much.  (I actually have 4 of these…. sad I know.  One “fancy” pair for my serger and three regular ones because I’m always misplacing them?)


These come in fun "fashion" colors now also


*If you decide you’re more of a quilter, you’ll want to look into rotary cutters, they’ll are a must for quilters today.  I have a pair just for making blankets or strips, but I don’t do that very often.  They can get pretty fancy with different blades that make designs and what not.  Take a peek at them, they may give you ideas!

Just to be sure, make sure you have another pair of regular household scissors in various places throughout the house to keep your kiddo’s (or spouse’s) hands off the good scissors.  A few cuts of paper (or hair) and you may notice your scissors “chewing” your fabric, instead of cutting it.  Why is this such an issue?  Other than it looking horrible, it can also pull threads from the middle of the fabric giving your fabric a ripple.  You also won’t cut evenly and it’s very hard on your hands trying to cut this way! 

Fabric stores will frequently have sharpening companies come in and for a fee they’ll sharpen whatever you bring them (knitting needles not included).  If you’ve paid a good amount, you’ll want to take advantage of this.  I suggest not using the home sharpeners though, in my experience they don’t work and make matters worse.  If you’ve bought standard scissors (say under $20) just replace them when you notice them not cutting as well.  If you mark the handle, you can even send these out for household use, just make sure to mark them as household first!  My first pair of mid-priced scissors lasted about 10 years before I needed to replace them.

A good rule of thumb if you’re still confused: Mid-price and mid-weight.

I think that just about covers the basics of scissors.  Hopefully that will take out some of the mystery when you’re standing in front of the wall covered with various blades. 



Oh Man! March 30, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,WTFr — blankenmom @ 11:04 pm
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I can’t believe it!  I can’t be the only one?  How could this happen?

A serious disease?  A death?  A horrible tragedy?  Well, maybe the last one.

The top that I’ve been working on and swore I wouldn’t show you until it was perfect?  Yeah it’s not the top, it’s me.  Apparently this style isn’t made for hobbits.  Drat!


Betty wears everything perfectly!


I shortened the darn thing and the length is just right, unfortunately the hips underneath are not. 

My beautifully made top, with the lining hand-stitched in and so much care taken to make it perfect after I waited for YEARS to make it, can’t be worn by this body.  Gosh dang-it all to heck!



I will say however, that it does *fit* great.  I can move in it and it doesn’t bunch, cinch or pinch so if I don’t mind looking like a goofball, I’d be very comfortable. 


I LOVE the zipper pull!


That’s a start!

It also means I can work with it and hopefully find out how to make future ones work, especially since I have another one cut out and waiting to be put together on my sewing table.  Oy!

I’m glad I’ve got a yummy bottle of wine and my finest “crystal” to sooth my broken heart this evening.




I’ll be blocking a sweater and watching some Alfred Hitchcock if you need me….




Tools March 24, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 11:57 pm
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Ah – I see you’re back and I didn’t scare you off by my last post about sewing.  Good – you’ll be rewarded!

Sewing, like many other hobbies, can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you like.  You can own all the toys that your local store or web store can offer, or you can own a sewing needles and a spool of thread.  This week I’ll show you a few items that you’re going to need as an average sewist and maybe a few that are just nice to have. 

We’ll talk about machines in a post all their own later on.  First-things-first.

If you were to walk into my sewing room, you’d see a vast amount of sewing items that you would probably never use.  If I walked into another sewers room, I would see items that I would never use.  There are just some things that work better for a few people than others and then there are items that every sewing kit must have.  

Just in case you haven’t heard the term – these items are known as Notions.

Below are the very basics:

This was laid out beautifully by this website on the most basic items you’ll need.  Although a few items could be updated or slightly altered, these are basically what you’ll have to have.  You can even go to Joanns and buy a kit with all these items already put together.

A few other “must haves” would include:

Yes - you're going to have to iron... a lot!

You’ll need some form of marking tool, but there are several options to choose from and you can have several and use what works for what you’re working with.

Great for transferring patterns. Great for curves. I prefer the non-serrated (non-bumpy) myself.

These come in triangles, squares and sometimes novelty shapes. These are great for marking notches and transferring marks.

I tend to prefer these. Easy to hold and can be sharpened like a pencil. Also comes in a larger amount of colors.


As strange as it sounds, you’ll need a hammer.  You don’t need a massive one, a little hammer will do.  This is the one I have in my sewing room and I use all the pieces.

This is a great little tool to have for various reasons. Stubborn jeans hems are #1.

You’ve got your measuring tape, but what if you’re not measuring a body? 

Ruler and a yard stick - Are they a must? Maybe not - but if you need to mark a straight line, these will be the perfect tools!

Sewing gauge - such a simple little thing that does so much. I love mine so much, I actually have two! Making a straight hem just got easier!

There are a few other items that I really prefer to have that make life a little easier.

I showed a stitch ripper above, but I really prefer this style. Sharper, more precise and easier on the hands. You're going to ripping a lot, you might as well make it comfortable!

Magnetic pin cushion - a must? No, but you can just fling the pins towards it and it will "catch" them. You can also wave this across the floor to catch dropped pins.

Hemostats - I don't know how I lived without these little beauties! I use them almost everyday in my sewing room and everywhere else in my house. Great for random stuck items - usually toys.

Mallet - you can use your hammer for most things, but a rubber mallet works on items that you don't want to damage. Snaps and wires for instance.

Ham and seam roll - these will make your ironing SO much easier!


I could honestly go on all night about items that are very useful, but these are definitely on the top of my list.  So when you head out to the store what should you absolutely bring home?  The items pictured at the top – the must haves.  After you decide you love sewing and can’t get enough – then you start down the rest of the list. 

Now quick – go shop!



“I’m Bored!”

How many times have I heard this from my boys – and then offered them a few chores to do as they bolt for the door. 

What do I tell myself when that rattles through my head?  Yeah, yeah, I’ve got chores I could be doing.  The clothes pile is getting a bit deep, the floor in the kitchen could use a bit of a scrubbing and there’s a strange smell coming from that corner over there?  But once I get those taken care of… then what?  I 100% enjoy being a wife, homeschooling mom and occasional seamstress.  I couldn’t imaging a better way to spend my time!  But let’s face it, the boys are getting older and starting to do their own things, the hubby is gone on the ship most of the time and there’s no sewing business to be had here.  So where does that leave me?

Also, in spite of being told over and over how “old” I’m getting at a mere 36, I really don’t feel like it and it’s not exactly time for me to pull out my rocking chair and retire.  I’ll have a great many years between the boys moving out and death (I hope) and I still have yet to accomplish something outside the family!

So where does that leave me?  Hmmm –

For a little extra excitement (and to save on gas) I asked for a moped for my birthday.  A scooter maintains a certain amount of safety (it only goes 30 mph), having already been told no to a Harley until the boys move out. 

*Shrug* – I was told no.









So instead I checked out some classes at the college and it’s a bit out of our budget at this point in time.  But boy would I love to learn a few new things!  I wonder if I can find someone willing to teach an eager student?

Welding – I would love to learn some general welding and especially pipe sweating.  That would come in very handy as a homeowner!  I’m pretty good at plumbing already; this would be a great extra to really do things right.



Electrical – I would LOVE to learn more about electrical work.  I’m not bad at it now, but you really can’t know too much about it. 



Kayaking – Surfing is out at our current location.  *Bummer*  However, there IS ample water to learn to kayak.  Besides, any sport where majority of the gear is orange, can only be awesome!



Engine repair – Ok, I’ve only been able to do a few things on the car.  I do rather enjoy it though.  I’ve put a battery in and I know how to check the fluids.  I’m an expert at putting the lights in, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge when it comes to my van.  It would be great to actually know what I’m looking at under the hood!



Shooting range – *Don’t look at me like that* I’ve been thinking about taking some gun lessons.  I grew up with guns in the house; knew how to shoot with great accuracy, but’s it’s been a while.  I wouldn’t keep any in the house – keep your knickers on.  But I’d have a great time shooting again!



I could however stay the course and look into some summer classes on fashion?  Not exactly exciting, but boy would it be useful!



Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been stuck in the house for months or it could have something to do with being called old before I’ve gotten to do something exciting?  All I know is that I’m itching to do something…. itch, itch.

I could start knocking walls out or tearing up grass for a garden.  Putting in fences, sinks, lights, shelves or cabinets, but since this isn’t my house – that would probably be frowned on. 


So let’s see where this goes!


Getting started! March 18, 2012

Filed under: Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 12:04 am
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So you’ve decided you really want to sew! 

Your MIL sew’s and is insisting you need to or you’re just not a good mother to her grandchildren and wife to her son.  Or your girlfriends all sew and you don’t want to be left out.  Maybe you saw a dress you fell in love with, but the color was hideous, so you want to make it instead. 

Most likely it’s because the stores haven’t figured out that you’re not a 5’10” and 100 pounds; instead you actually has a chest and hips!  In my case it was that they didn’t make maternity clothes in my size (about the size of a small 10/12-year-old – so we should be thankful I guess!)

Well great!  What ever the reason – everyone should know how, even if it’s just a button on a shirt!

All four of my boys know how to use a sewing machine and stitch by hands, cut out patterns and select fabric – it’s not a girl thing!

Most of my students had grandmothers or mothers that knew how to sew, but it was never passed along to them, but they grew up watching it done.  As I’m learning, however, some of my students have never even seen a sewing machine up close, let alone someone sewing.  Most of this beginning information will be for you folks.  You know you want to sew – or at least think you know you want to sew, but have no idea where to even start? 

I’ll be going through what you need to get started; terms, tools, machines.  I’ll be going over pattern envelopes and instructions.  Pinning instructions; when I say I’m starting at the basics – I mean the basics!

Tonight I’ll just let you in on a few secrets that people who have never sewn, don’t know and should, before they start.

  • Sewing is not quick.  On occasion, you can pop out an item in a weekend, or maybe even an evening, but you won’t be invited to a party on Friday and show up in a magnificent gown on Saturday – you can make a cute little purse that will go great with the gown you bought though!
  • Sewing if done correctly, can and often will be, tedious.  A great outfit is all about the details!
  • Yes, you will have to iron… a lot!
  • You WILL NOT be able to buy a pattern, cut it out and have a perfect fit.  There will be alterations and adjustments to the pattern.  Even the pattern companies have to use a standard size – that seem to fit no one?
  • You WILL make mistakes.  A lot of them.  Everyone one of us does – even the most experienced sewers do.  (You’ll learn about a tool called a stitch ripper – it will be your best friend and worst enemy.)  Some day I’ll show you a few of mine – I hide them in the closet to peak at every so often to remind myself of what not to do.
  • Most importantly *SEWING IS NOT CHEAPER THAN BUYING!*  You will not save money by making your own clothes.  If you’re planning on making your children’s clothes – it will not be cheaper; it will be more fun than buying though. (and for little girls, a bit more modest – especially with the low-rise pants trend)  There are cheaper ways of buying the items you need, but you will always find premade clothes for cheaper!

I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten – please let me know if you know of one.

There is so much creativity to be had with sewing once you get the hang of it.  But, as with anything new, the beginning will be stressful, sweat inducing, curse-word inviting and loathsome, but once you get past the beginners frustration you’ll see a whole new world open up! 

If I haven’t turned you off from it from that description – congrats!  You’re ready to think about the tools you’ll need.