My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

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!





Talent, gift, desire, whatever…. March 25, 2013

Filed under: Random thoughts,Sewing — blankenmom @ 3:28 pm
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This video has been passed around FB for a while now, but I just love it.  I always wanted to be able to play music, or sing.  I was actually in band and choir growing up; not sure why as my musical abilities are as severely lacking as the math talent it’s supposed to assist with?  And as I popped out little boys – it only got worse.


It doesn’t stop me from appreciating the music however.


That makes me think of my talent, or gift, or whatever you want to call it.  Sewing definitely creates something and is even an art, but it’s not as if sewing brings dramatic feelings to a person.  We don’t see a person crying tears of joy over newly hemmed pants (well, I’ve seen some pretty weepy brides over their gowns?) or people standing in ovation at the pure amazement of a new scarf.  So what does a person do when their talent isn’t life changing or ovation worthy?


If you think about it, the car mechanic doesn’t get much glory, or the plumber.  Mothers, teachers or road workers.  But that’s their calling, gift, desire or talent.  And without them we wouldn’t be able to appreciate musicians, actors, artists or the various other creative outlets that bring everyone else so much passion and joy.


So, as someone who “just” sews, the appreciation for our talent comes from knowing that the person out front sharing their gift, has all their dangly bits covered so we can all better enjoy their talent.








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!











Our bit of a miracle February 19, 2013





Our first-born turns 18 this week.  It’s a shock for us – let’s face it, we’re not old enough to have a kid that age.  HA!

Ok, let’s be honest, my first-born was a high school graduation “surprise” (as though we really didn’t know how it happened).  Not everyone likes surprises as much as others apparently?


All I could think of that first day we found out was my career counselor in high school telling me loudly “With grades like this, you might as well just start having babies.  You’ll never be able to do anything worth while.”  As though being a mom was the worst thing you could be?






Over the objections of a lot of people, my boyfriend of two years and I decided that this little one wasn’t a choice.  I offered to let him head for the hills and not tell anyone who the baby belonged to, but not a chance, he was in it for the long hall.

After we let people know, a lot of friends walked away, and even my church asked me to stop coming.  I was ignored, talked about, told off and called names.  Boxes filled with very used baby items with notes attached telling me that “this is what you get when you have a baby before you’re married” arrived, even though I worked and could afford to buy them myself.

We had people offer our baby to others without our permission, handing us couples numbers telling us that “they would really love a baby and they’ve already talked with them.”  I had the nurse who was supposed to give me information on how to take care of myself while pregnant attempt to threaten me into an appointment to “get rid of it”.

Rude comments, whispers and dirty looks from strangers, co-workers, checkers, nurses and anyone else who felt the need to chime in, as though their opinion mattered, came rolling in to “encourage” us.


My boyfriend and I visited almost every weekend while he was up north working on his first year of college.  You’d be amazed how caring and protective frat boys can be when it comes to one of their “brothers” baby’s!  Leaving me in the care of our wonderful midwife who protected and encouraged me and a few friends who were amazing to me, while I stayed behind to finish up work.  

9 months later, he came down for a surprise visit that must have been a little too exciting for me – that Sunday, our first-born arrived on his exact due date.  7 lbs 14 oz – 19 inches.  5:03 am.



Picture 374



We got married 6 months later right before he left for basic training and we’re still happily married today!


This “thing” that was supposed to ruin our lives and should never be born has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to us.  He was supposed to keep us from succeeding, from having a life and from doing anything important.  Instead – he was a reason to work harder, be better and to love him, and each other that much more.  I wish everyone could have someone to work that hard for!

Not only has my husband become dentist, but has worked his way up from enlisted to an officer in both the Air Force and the Navy.

I have opened my own business that allows me to have full control over my work and how I take care of my family.


What you view as “having a life” depends on what you think having a life is.  A party every weekend or waking up next to a husband and cookie breathed baby IS a life – it’s an excellent, wonderful, crazy life that would have been robbed from me if I had listened to all the people who told me – that this isn’t a life.

And what makes a job important?  Is teaching a child his ABC’s important, or being there to scare the monsters away?  Is teaching your sons that girls are to be honored, something to be proud of?  If it weren’t for people who give up their lives for others…. if it weren’t for parents, people who do “something important” wouldn’t exist.  THIS…. is important!


Honestly – it wasn’t easy.  My guess is that’s why God said to do it the other way around!  But please, can someone show me something in life, that is worth while, that is easy?


Didn’t think so!


He is graduating from high school and college with honors.  He’ll have a 2 year degree when he walks out of our house in a few months.  He’s already run his own baking business, traveled several states, helped me with his brothers while his dad is serving his country, shown amazing leadership skills at home, work, school and church.  He has shown us that he’ll be an amazing man, husband, father and Christian.  He’s been one of my best friends and biggest challenges from the first day I learned about him.  I can’t imagine our life or the world without him.






I am so glad we didn’t believe anyone when they told us that he was the worst choice we could make or didn’t believe that he was something to “take care of”.  We didn’t believe that he was a cause for sadness.  He was ours, from the first moment we knew about him!


It did take a while for the reality to set in though….


I say to all of you –

– who profess to say you are “pro-life” and then give the stink eye of shame to the 16-year-old who keeps her baby – you are hypocrites!  Instead encourage her, walk beside her – trust me, she already knows all the things she’s done wrong and doesn’t need your help to feel any worse.  She needs your encouragement and loving guidance.  God doesn’t make mistakes, even if we can’t see the reason.


I say to all of you –

– who say you are “pro-choice” and then chastise the girl for keeping her baby, telling her that her life is over, she’s ruining everything you or she’s got planned for life – this is her *choice*!  Back her up, help her.  Don’t tell her that her life is over and all she can do is nothing and welfare is her only option.  She is an amazing person, with an amazing person in the making.


Better yet – tell her AND the father!


Thank you to everyone who believed in us, backed us up, helped us, talked with us, stayed with us and didn’t remind us.  You helped us make an amazing man.  I hope to be able to pass this gift on someday.


I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him!


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.

There’s a pattern here (cutting through) January 5, 2013

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 11:46 pm
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Great – you’ve got your pattern all cut out from the original paper!


Now you can lay your newly traced pattern down on the fabric OR use your actual tissue if you don’t want to trace.  You can follow the layout in the directions or you can lay them so that they fit tightly on the fabric.  I find that the layout directions tend to waste a lot of fabric and I don’t have that kind of money to waste.  But if you’re nervous on your first try – definitely use them, we want you comfortable!  You do however, need to follow the grain lines and these are shown to you by the arrows on the pattern.  The pattern pieces need to all be going in the same direction and all in the correct direction (unless otherwise noted).  Usually from top to bottom.  *There are some patterns that will have you going side-to-side or diagonal, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  For the most part, you’ll be going in this standard direction.



Making sure the grain-line lines up with the edge.

Making sure the grain-line lines up with the edge.



Make sure the patterns are as flat as you can get them on the fabric.  You don’t want any wrinkles, crinkles or rolls under them or you’ll cut the pattern incorrectly.




I would usually iron the fabric, but since these are pajama pants and the fabric is heavy enough to lay flat, I didn’t bother. It won’t affect the lay of the pattern in this case.



You’re now going to pin…. lot’s and lot’s of pin’s.  You want to pin parallel with your cutting lines, not against them and make a good attempt at making them straight (If your pins aren’t straight with each other, this will make your cutting less accurate because of the puckers it causes).  You’ll end up at some point in corners, you can choose which line you’ll go parallel with when you get there – not an issue!  Make sure to pin corners, curves and straight lines.  You’ll want to pin about 1-2 inches, so that when you cut and slightly lift the pattern and fabric up with the scissors, the fabric has a hard time moving and shifting.  Don’t pin over the little triangles on the cutting lines since you’ll need to clip those and cutting your pins is a bad thing!









Start cutting!  It doesn’t really matter which lines you cut first, at least in my experience.  As you go, keep the fabric as flat as possible.  Don’t turn the fabric to cut it, but move your body around the fabric.  Each time you move the pieces, it changes how the fabric lies under the pattern, even with the pins in.  When you get to a triangle, make a very small, but noticeable cut in it.  It doesn’t have to be the triangle, just a snip will do.  If there are two or three, make two or three snips.












Once you’re done cutting out each piece, you need to lay each piece to the side and move on to the next.  Make sure to keep the pattern on top of the piece of fabric you just cut out or you’ll forget which piece is what, especially with pieces like fronts and backs that look very similar.  If you don’t have enough pins to keep in the patterns AND to hold your fabric together later when sewing the other pieces, you can take all but one or two out – enough to keep the pattern attached.


Once the pieces are all cut out, you’ll need to go back and make the finishing marks.  Tailor tacks, washable or air dry markers or chalk are all perfect for this task.  Tailor tacks are free, washable or air dry markers and chalk all work very well – just make sure not to iron over them before they disappear and chalk works nicely if you remember to wash or dust off before ironing.  (I still have a bit of blue chalk on one of my favorite dresses because I ironed before I dusted the chalk off.)


When using a tailor’s tack, use contrasting thread.  Make a small loop in the fabric on the mark you need to show.  I tend to use tacks.  These can be cut out later once you’ve sewn everything together to your satisfaction.


When using markers or chalk, use the closest color to the fabric as possible that will still show up.  Markers will not work on darker fabrics however, which makes chalk a nice choice for them.  I have been known to use a matching color of marker on dark shades and just looked for the contrasting shade in the light.  Tailor’s will often use white chalk on dark colors and I will do this if I must, but I prefer to avoid it since the chalk can travel a bit.  Make sure if you’re using these that you mark the inside of your fabric!



Going left to right: Chalk "pen", tracing wheel and chalk paper, sharpie (only in the hem allowances!!), tailors chalk, tailors tacks.  I don't have any disappearing ink pens, but don't let that stop you from getting them!

Going left to right: Chalk “pen”, tracing wheel and chalk paper, sharpie (only in the hem allowances!!), tailors chalk, tailors tacks. I don’t have any disappearing ink pens, but don’t let that stop you from getting them!


*I will go over how to use these in more detail later on.


With all of these marks, make sure to get both sides of your fabric pieces.  Get boxes, dots, and fold marks, marked.


Now that you are done cutting and marking all your patterns, you can start to pin them together according to the pattern and sewing them together.


Money on trees October 20, 2012

Filed under: Boys,Family,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 8:21 pm
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I’m sort of a late comer to getting this.  I’ve always run a tight budget and kept our spending down, but as our boys have gotten older, we’ve had to spend more – but I noticed a lot of what we were spending money on was silly stuff that I wouldn’t normally spend money on.  BK after doc appt.’s, a snack from the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, a candy bar after soccer (notice will you…. it’s all food.  Boys eat.  And eat.  And eat…..)


I’ve always talked with them about buying sales, looking for the better price, waiting for the better deals and included them when shopping so they knew how much things really cost.  However, a few weeks ago when we were out, and the boys wanted to get something on the go and I told them we didn’t have the money for that – they were shocked!  You mean, money doesn’t magically come out of the ATM?  You mean, there isn’t endless money on the debit card?  You mean, there isn’t a money tree in our back yard?  Yes boys – the sad, sad truth is that there is a limit to mom and dad’s money!


Ok, I’ll give you that the oldest gets this now.  He makes his own money and knows that he only has a certain amount for gas and fun before his account yells at him.  But the younger three are less aware.  They get a dollar, the spend the dollar.  That’s about the end of it.


So how exactly do you teach a 14, 12 and 10 year old about the “money tree”?


I got it!  On our weekly calendar I put up how much their weekly allowance for “fun money” was.  (They do chores, but they don’t get an allowance – it just didn’t work in our house)  This included food not made at home, snacks, movies, candy, video games they all wanted.  Anything they wanted to buy together and didn’t have the money for themselves.


They were amazed at how little there was at first.  “Really, that’s all we get?”  “Yup, spend it wisely!”  But as they started working together on what they wanted, what was important and maybe even saving some of it up for things they REALLY wanted, they started to actually enjoy it!  They realized how much was really there…. if they didn’t spend it on “stuff”.


It’s great to see them get the gist of a budget.  So far this week, out of $25 for the whole week, they spent $5 on soda for their $3 movie download.  That’s it!



On top of this, they decided that they wanted to spend half of what they saved up, to help pay for trick-or-treat supplies.  I was a bit taken back by this, but very proud!


So I guess my venture into teaching them budget skills is starting off well!  Now – to find that money tree?