My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Sew seamless June 23, 2014

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 1:31 am
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I wanted to demonstrate how you can make a seamless elastic top seam like you would buy in the store.


You could just sew straight through the elastic on this top, but it would make a very noticeable line across the top.  Which, unless you are adding it on purpose with a design in mind, wouldn’t look very good for this particular look.


We want a clean line that doesn’t look like anything is really holding it up so that the pleates can fall freely.



I’ll start by saying, all I did to measure this was wrap it around me.  I will also make sure to mention (if you didn’t read the other post on this dress) to make sure to measure it around your largest body part.  Once done, sew up the side seam or seams to make a long tube.

When selecting an elastic for this dress, I wanted something larger so it wouldn’t roll or fold.  I wanted it to act as a foundation and as a sort of facing.  It also had to be able to hold up a large amount of heavy fabric.  I believe this was 2″ elastic.







Sewing the end of the top to the end of the elastic.  (Ok, you could really do this with the machine, but I was watching the World Cup, but you get the idea.)





What it should look like when you’re done joining the two.








Flip the elastic over, only showing the fabric.  Here is where you would normally sew it down, creating a seam line.  Instead, tack the elastic down at the side seams and any other inconspicuous places, making sure to add a mark for front and back if necessary.  (Some tops or dresses this isn’t necessary as it’s obvious, but this type of dress, it’s a bit harder to tell.)



That should be all you need to keep the elastic in place and from flipping every time you try to dress.



A very nice clean look!







Mistaken May 4, 2014

Filed under: Made by me,Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 12:17 am
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A while back I had promised to share a few of my sewing mistakes.  I went through my closet and found some of the items that I couldn’t quite bring myself to get rid of, but didn’t wear either because I *knew* what was wrong with them.


Some are obvious, some not so much.


It reminded me of a few items that I no longer have, mostly because they were *so* bad, I just couldn’t bare to look at them long enough to repair them.  *Lingerie that I overstuffed the chest in.  A nightgown that was poorly sewn and impossible to wear.  Tops that I didn’t pay attention to the grain on and they ended up longer on one side than the other and oh so many more…..


Why am I showing you these things?


When you watch sewing shows, read blogs or magazines, I want it to be understood that those people weren’t born with needle-in-hand.  They too had wonky seams, pockets that didn’t line up and crooked hems.  Granted some people are more talented at this craft than others, but by no means do they *never* have mistakes.  The exact opposite actually – the more creative the person and the better the designs, the more mistakes they most likely had beforehand!  You have to make several mistakes before you get it just right.


Let’s get started shall we:








This shirt, in itself, is not bad.  The sewing is actually done quite well.  The problem comes when I didn’t pay attention to body style.  This is ALL wrong for my body, hits me in all the wrong places and makes me look like a fat old woman.  Which will be fine when I am, but I still have a few years until then.  Maybe I’ll just hold on to it until I get there?










This top was obviously meant to be worn over a tank top.  I actually made it to go over a mandarin top that turned out excellently!  This however is just sad.  Very sad.  The sleeve caps don’t match and the ribbon edging on the front is pathetic.  I will be fixing this one, once I figure out exactly what I want to do with it.











Where to get started….. To begin with, yes the print is FAR to big for my small frame, but have you ever tried to look for small tropical prints?  Yeah, there aren’t a lot of them.  Especially in gauzy type fabric.  This little item was sort of slapped together in an attempt to look “casually put together” (read: slapped together).  It’s terrible!  I will be taking the strap off, that dorky under-bust seam will go, and turn it into a strapless maxi.  Because we all know how often I wear dresses?











This dress I’m actually very proud of – other than the major mistake I made on it. Here’s the back-story:


“I custom-made this costume about 10 years ago.  I draped the whole thing.  Sewed on all the beads, some you can’t even see here.  It took over 6 months.  I made the whole thing on “Betty”, who is covered in slightly “sticky” flannel.  What a surprise when I put it on my body and realized I had made the opening to the dress far too big for my smooth skin to keep up!  In an attempt to fix this, I made a “collar” of beads to hold the dress up.  Fast forward to the churches Fall Festival.  As I’m escorting my four small children around the church, some poor, random child walks up the back of my dress and proceeds to pop off all the beads on the “safety collar” – the only thing that stood between me and nekedness.  AWKWARD!


I love this dress.  I WILL figure out a way to fix this.  Idea’s anyone?



And finally:










How could you not love this jacket with that lining?  Anyway, the problems include sleeves whose outside fabric is longer than the lining fabric, causing sad, sad ripples above the cuffs.  Pockets that aren’t attached very well, that you can see the lining from the outside of.  And while it fits quite nicely, it looks sloppy when buttoned because the jacket isn’t tacked or sewn down properly to the lining.  This one will also be fixed – I just like it too much to keep it in the closet any longer!




While there were more, and will be more in my future, I proudly hold on to these few as proof that it can only get better!


Now go out and make some mistakes!





Muslin: One of Life’s Musts January 19, 2014

Filed under: Hubby,Random thoughts,Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:49 pm
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My dentist man came home from work Wednesday and informed me during our hurried “before co-ed soccer” dinner that the company party this Friday would be semi-formal.  My eyes bulging like a cartoon character must have let him know something was up, as his next response was, “What?”


In two days, we had to have something semi-formal to wear, along with school, car repairs and still making dinner.  Not an issue to a man who has business suites, military uniforms and frequently updated work clothes (we won’t go into the 20-year-old flannels).  It was a bit more of an issue for a stay-at-home mom who’s necessity for “fancy” clothes was extremely limited and consisted of shirts without stains and jeans without holes.  It’s just not something I think of?


Yes, I could have run to the store and bought something…. and then proceeded to alter and hem it.  $100 to do what I could have just done from the beginning?  I think not!  So, bright and early Thursday afternoon I went off to the fabric store.  I must admit the local place is *very* limited in their nicer fabrics, but I did find a brown silk that would do just perfectly.  And as an added bonus, it would be my first time wearing silk.


And this is where that clever title above comes in.  The importance of a muslin in life.  After going over my measurements once again and shedding a tear or two as I cranked “Betty” to my new correct size, I began to look over the pattern size I would be needing and realized I was two sizes larger on the bottom than the top.  Three actually, but the pattern didn’t go that small on top.  *sigh*  It’s a good thing I know how to decrease.


Before even attempting to cut into my on sale, “you bought 1/4 of a yard too little” and “you’ve got one shot at this because tomorrow is the party” fabric, I made the first muslin.  Sure enough, it was too small in the keester.  As in, stitches were popping and no amount of shaving my legs was going to help it ease up.  And the top was gaping open as if to say “Seriously – you really have that small of a chest?”  No worries, I proceeded to retrace the pattern in the adjusted size.

*SLIP*  It went over the bod like butter and not one thread of my fancy fabric was harmed.


While this may not be a tale of woe or a super huge lesson on life itself.  Had I jumped over this step to try to save time, I would have had to show up in my fanciest jeans and nicest t-shirt.  Oh how impressive.


Making a muslin = no skipping steps.  You can use it as a metaphor for life.

 You’re welcome!


I looked smoken’ by-the-way!


Sticking to it November 22, 2013

Filed under: Boys,Family,Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 12:40 am
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This isn’t a lesson so much, more of a “Hey cool!  Look at what I sewed and you could too!”, type tutorial.

Those of you who either have family or are in a line of work that requires name tags may already be acquainted with this type of set up, but this was the first time I had ever seen it done and thought it was just too cool to pass up doing.


My oldest and his friend work together in a camp kitchen and for his friends 18th birthday got him a cooks jacket to match his.  He asked me to make a name tag for him though.  But not just an ordinary name tag.  He wanted one that said his friends last name on one side for when the bosses were there, but on the opposite side had another name entirely.


…. yes, you’re reading the bottom one correctly ….

At first I thought Velcro?  The small dot kind that you would use on purses?  I even bought them.  But the idea of how nifty it would be to have a name tag you could just “slap” on?!  The hunt began….

The normal type of name tag magnet wouldn’t work for this application however.  Because I needed to flip the tag, the polar’s wouldn’t work when we flipped it around.  But I am so keeping these in mind for future use!

So I turned to these little guys – plus, I didn’t have to wait for shipping.


Extra strong “rare earth” magnets.  The small one went into the name tag.  The bigger one, on the back of the shirt.  Mind you, the smaller one is the size of an eraser head and the bigger one is smaller than a dime.  They are pretty heavy, but not so heavy as to shift the shirt, which was another concern with the larger magnet.

After finding the right kind of magnet to do the job, I made the name tag.  Embroidery machines rock!  I made two separate name tags and using clear thread, put them together.  I could have used hot glue, but I thought that might give it too much bulk.  However, if I were to do this over, I would use my embroidery machine for just the words and my serger for the outer lines.  But this still looks pretty good – just hard to match up edges.

Before putting them together, I made little pouches to put the smaller magnets in.  The reasoning behind pouches instead of hot gluing the magnets down was so that when you changed sides of the name tag, the magnets could flip to the correct polar’s.  If I were to glue them down, they would resist each other when turned to the other side and it would be pointless.  (There’s your science lesson for the day.)


Small pouches, one on each side, both holding the smaller magnets sandwiched between name tags.

I hand stitched the inner edges and allowed the clear thread to catch the outer edge so that the pouch would stay put.  Then the two patches were sewn together.


Now to sew in some tiny pouches to the inside of the jacket front.


Also hand-stitched, two pockets, to the inside of the jacket.  Allowing the magnet inside to move freely.  (Yes, I forgot to take a pic of the inside of the jacket.)

One new fancy patch – that will “snap” right on to the shirt.  C’mon – how cool is that!?




I promise I ironed it after this.

Pretty spiffy eh!


Happy Trails – sewing on the go September 23, 2013



Since I’m sitting here bored, without any of my belongings, I figured I should probably do a quick “tutorial” on sewing while traveling. 




Because if I had taken my own advice, I’d at least have a bit of sewing with me – or even my machine and I wouldn’t be watching a Star Trek marathon (the original to Voyager)…. again.  


Ok, I probably would be, but with my sewing machine wirrrrring next to my laptop as it played.



First – is it actually possible to take your sewing with you?


Of course!  For just hand sewing, there are so many different types of sewing baskets available, you could be stylish AND have something to do.

You could have vintage to traditional to just your style.








hello kitty


Even a tackle box would work if you’re not picky about what it looks like.


Make sure you’ve got everything you think you might need.  But usually you can find it in a smaller scale.  You probably won’t be cutting out any dresses on your hotel room floor, so large scissors probably won’t be necessary.  Do remember your thimble for hand sewing.  Unless you enjoy pain, or have no feeling left in your fingertips, you’ll want something for those hand needles.





This is probably a bit more then you’ll actually need – but you get the idea.


For those of us who like to bring their sewing machine with them, for say… classes, moves, long vacations, a craft night at your friend’s house or sewing with the other parents for a school function – what ever your reason, there is a way to safely and conveniently move your sewing machine AND your serger if you have one.

Several companies make varying styles of bags, roller bags, totes and luggage to carry your not-so-little precious all over and back.  As always, it comes down to price and style.

Whether your going for the quick and easy Joann’s at 50% off or the “matchy-matchy” whole darn set.  There is a right one for you.

One of my personal favorites, due to the functionality and color choices is Tutto.  How can you go wrong with that many color choices after all!


Now that we have most of our tools and gadgets with us, let’s answer our second question.


Why would we want to sew while we’re traveling?


If sewing is only for when you absolutely have to – then you don’t really need much of these.  A mini-kit in your luggage will suffice for emergencies.  

If sewing is a passion, then a small sewing basket and your latest work to practice a little hand sewing, will do great.  After all, once you’ve seen one corn field on your move…. you’ve seen them all.  

If sewing is a little more of an addiction than say, crack – than you’ll want the luggage.  And as the ReFashionista shows us, there’s always time to whip-up a dress!


And for those of you, who are seriously, seriously addicted, there are, in fact, sewing, knitting and crocheting cruises and vacation destinations.  


Happy Trails!





1/4″ at a time March 23, 2013

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 9:11 pm
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Not so much a sewing lesson I guess, but sometimes getting to know a new tool that can save you time – thus money is nice too.






This little tool is called a 1/4″ hem roller (you can actually buy them in different sizes I believe, but not by much).  You would use this for napkins, sheer fabric hems, some curtains.  Places you’d see both sides of the fabric so you want as little hem showing as possible or as light weight as possible.


You can do these hems by hand, but trust me, as someone who has done this by hand on yards-and-yards of a hem – get the foot!


You need to start out by doing a quick, very close to the edge straight stitch.  This keeps the fabric from stretching as you sew with the roller foot and give the fabric something to roll around so to speak.  You’ll want to leave the thread tails for something to hold onto to pull the fabric through in the beginning since it won’t want to feed by itself.  It’s also useful at the end so you can keep the fabric feeding through the foot and won’t pop out.






Attach your nifty little foot, set the needle to just barely catch the fabric curl (it’s about a 3 on my machine) and feed the long threads you left through first.  If you just set it under there, it sort of self feeds itself into the foot.  Do make sure that the thread from the needle and bobbin are fed through the bar AFTER the curl or the fabric won’t go anywhere.  You’ll have a lot of thread coming out the back of the foot – it’s ok, you’ll cut it off when you’re done.  Set the foot down right before the fabric and start the fabric through.  You’ll want to start slightly before the fabric, but not much.  Pulling gently letting the fabric curl through the foot.





You can see it curling itself here.

It works best for me to pull (very gently) with my left hand and guide with my right for this.  You’ll want to play around to find the “sweet spot” for guiding the fabric in that get’s the best roll.  It’s usually slightly to the left for me.  If it’s a long enough piece of fabric you can just hold your hand in one spot letting the fabric slide through.


This is what will come out of the other side.


Sorry for the bad photo.  Odd angle.

It ends up being very neat and clean if you do it right.  You may end up with a few spots where it didn’t tuck the fabric all the way up and you’re left with a slight raw edge.  You can go back through with small scissors and cut those spots off – being careful NOT to clip the folded edge of the sewn fabric.

This does take practice, but’s well worth the time and it’s well worth the $20 for the foot!











Seams to me…. February 3, 2013

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 12:33 am
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… it’s time to start sewing!



I’m going to use a pair of pajama pants I recently made to show you the basics of putting an item together.  This is a step above a pillow, dog bed or pencil skirt, but still very, very basic.


(This will be a long one. Click on any picture for more detail)


I showed you last time the “notches” you need to cut out to make sure you have matching pieces and have the pieces put together the correct way.  Here you can see them matched up.


Then pin.  Pin every few inches.  The more slippery and difficult the fabric, the more pins you’ll want.  I have mine set here about every 2 1/2 or 3 inches.  I could have gone closer, but the fabric tended to stick to itself.  This will be the inside seam line of the bottoms, down the leg.









Click to see the spacing.




Once you have it pinned, place the fabric under your machine, laying it next to the seam allowance line you want (usually 3/4″) and lower the foot.  Only AFTER you’ve lowered the foot do you want to remove the pin, but do NOT sew over the pin!





See those numbers next to the foot? Those are the lines that help you measure your seam allowance – how much fabric will be on the inside of where you have just sewn. If you’re not sure which line is which, take a ruler and measure with the needle down, from the needle to the allowance line you need. You can mark it with tape if you want to remember the line you need. *Don’t forget, if you change the needle position, it will change the seam allowance measurement lines.



Sew this piece together, slowly going down the leg, removing the pins as you go before you reach them, but getting close.  Don’t push, pull or yank the fabric.  You most likely won’t even need to hold the back of the fabric for this type of project.  Just gently guide it through the front, letting the feed dogs (the jagged little bars under the presser foot) do their job.  (Turn the handle a few times with out fabric and you’ll see them move)

*Do NOT throw your pins randomly to the side, there’s no hurry and you can stop the machine to look where you’re putting them.  Have your pin cushion, magnet or box next to your machine to place them in.

You say “Well duh!  Of course, that’s what I bought this cute little pin cushion for!”  I spend a lot of my teaching time “catching” needles shot off by nervous first timers.  I promise, stopping the machine to place the needles back where they belong will pay off when you *don’t* step on your needles!













PRESS, Press, press!  You will most likely spend more time at your iron, than you will actually sewing – trust me.  It will pay off!

Flat seam, open seam wrong side, open seam right side.









Before pressing.                                                                                          After pressing.




Now pin the inside…. crotch for a lack of a better term.  Tucking one leg into the other, outsides touching each other.  One leg should be inside-out, the other right side-out, tucking the right side-out into the inside-out leg.  Pin together matching notches again.

Also, at this point, the notches showing where the back is may not show up as well (especially if you use a serger).  Make sure to mark it, however you choose to mark it.











PRESS, Press, press, again.  First the seam flat to sink the stitches in.  Then, with the seam open on the wrong side.  Then, with the seam open on the right side.
























Now that it’s all sewn together and looks like a pair of bottoms, we need to hem them.  That is, make the bottom look nice and protect the raw edges.

Measure, using either a slide ruler like I have here, or a ruler, tucking 1/4″ inside and then 3/4″.  Pin about every 1 1/2″ – 2″.  After you’ve pinned, sew it down using the measurements to the side as before OR using the edge of your presser foot to keep your line steady.  Again making sure to remove the pins as you sew and to not push, pull or yank on the fabric.  You’ll distort your hem.  You may need to hold it a bit taught at this point, but there should be very little tension on it.  (Just enough to make the seam straight, not enough to make the pins shift)




The presser foot is only there to hold the fabric for me while I pin.







Sewing very close to the open edge as possible while still catching it.




PRESS, Press, press, again.  Make sure to press the hem down.  Once on the wrong side,  once on the right side.



Now – for the hardest part.  The waist band.

After measuring out how much elastic you need, either by using what the pattern calls for, or by bringing it around yourself and taking about 3 inches off, depending on how tight you like your britches.

I usually like to use 1″ elastic or larger for my waistband, I think this is also what was suggested by the pattern.  This means you need to make your seam at the waist about 1/4″ larger than your elastic.  1″ elastic = 1 1/4″ hem allowance.  1 1/2″ elastic = 1 3/4″ hem allowance.

Start pinning.




Notice the pin at the back seam. This is to make sure I can find the back easily while I’m working with the bottoms and to remind me not to sew up the hole I’m leaving for later.



Sew all the way around, leaving about a 1″ – 2″ opening to put the elastic inside.  Use the same technique as you did with the hem.  Either measuring by the lines on the side or using the edge of your foot.






PRESS, Press, press, again.



To insert the elastic you don’t have to have any fancy tools.  If you have one, use it.  If not – a safety-pin works perfectly.  Make sure it doesn’t easily open though or you’ll drive yourself nuts.  I really like to use diaper pins because they’re made to be stiffer and less likely to pop open.

Make sure to pin the opposite end to the bottoms so you won’t lose the elastic in the waistband as you’re feeding it through – did it twice once.  ONCE!  Now I know better!  Pin it.







Push the safety-pin through the pocket.  Pulling the fabric, pushing the pin, until the pin makes it all the way around and comes back out.  If your pin opens inside, back the elastic up a bit and you should be able to close it again while it’s still inside, being careful not to pin the fabric as well.  If it’s too stubborn, you may have to pull it back out and restart.












You can pick which way you want to sew the elastic together.  It won’t really matter once it’s inside the waistband pocket.


No need to make the joining pretty, it will be inside and you’ll (hopefully) never see it again.  I prefer zig-zag.  Make sure to get both edges of the elastic to make sure it doesn’t unravel and go over it several times to make sure your pants won’t *POP* and fall off later – never good!  Unless that’s what you’re going for?





Tuck the elastic back in and sew it up just like the rest of the seam.


No pressing.



You now have a pair of pajama bottoms.






What ever your beginning project, these steps should cover most of what you’ll be working on.  Points to remember –


  • Make sure to keep your eye on the seam line, keeping it straight.  If you start to go crooked, slowly come back to the correct allowance.  If necessary, go back to where it started to curve and start again.
  • Don’t sew over your pins, or fling them randomly.
  • Go slowly for your first projects.
  • No one started out doing this perfectly and just about anything can be fixed!
  • PRESS, Press, press!  You’ll thank me for it.