Category Archives: sewing

Teaching the Girl to Sew

Her first machine sewing project at amyhoodarts.com

Earlier this month, my 6yo daughter told me one of her goals for this year was to learn how to sew using the sewing machine. No problem! I told her when I taught myself how to sew I started with projects that involved straight lines, and we talked about some options. She, a girl after her mother’s heart, decided she wanted to start with a tote bag. We do love our things-to-put-other-things-in here. I showed her some options in Sew What! Bags, and she chose the Reversible Tote.

Now, I’d had some ideas of what to do with Saturday afternoon, involving baking banana bread and making some art with all the kids, but G was excited and raring to go, so I shifted gears so I could meet her enthusiasm with a great big YES. First thing we did was investigate mama’s fabric stash which, sadly, is stored in bins instead of on color-organized shelving, but we did the best we could. She selected several then decided which two to use. Her bag is as colorful as her typical outfits. (She used the same fabric for outer and lining, and the same heart fabric for both pockets because yep, she has an inside pocket too.)

Once she’d picked the fabrics, I pulled her Learning Tower over to the ironing board and I showed her how to iron. (Not too long after that, I knocked our iron off the board and it broke, but husband saved the day with his travel iron, which is JUST the right size for 6yo hands, too.) Then I cut out the pieces–I did that part, because it was all rectangles and I used the rotary cutter and plastic ruler and, well, that’s going to take some growing on her part, I think, before she can safely use it.

“NOW can we sew, Mama?” Not quite yet. Reading the directions, we saw it was time to iron some more to prepare the pockets. I held the fold, she pressed (and learned what it means to “press” rather than “iron”). Then I showed her the sewing machine and what the various dials mean and do. She sat on my lap and I operated the foot pedal while we practiced together. Then it was time to assemble the bag. (The rest of these pics were taken by my husband.)

sewing on the pocket at amyhoodarts.com

She raised and lowered the presser foot, kept the fabric aligned (with some guidance by me, less and less of it as we went on), raised and lowered the needle, rotated the fabric around corners, operated the reverse stitch switch for backstitching, removed pins, cut threads. She trimmed seam allowances and clipped corners. She pressed seams.

learning to machine sew at amyhoodarts.com

I included this photo because I love the look on her face! I think she’s concentrating there.

sewing with mama at amyhoodarts.com

When her bag was done she said, “I can’t believe I made this all by myself!” And I grinned because it wasn’t quite all by herself but it was, too–she didn’t just sit on my lap and have her hands there and sort of sew it. She was learning the steps of sewing, how the machine works, what needed to be done, what it means to clip corners and press seams and on and on. She rightly feels ownership of that bag, and what a good use of an afternoon, to begin to teach my girl how to sew. How wonderful to share something I like with someone who wants to learn.

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

* I cooked a lot of food. Really, a lot. We joked my Italian was showing. We had my husband’s family here for Christmas Eve dinner and it was really, really nice. I’d hoped we could make that happen, since we won’t all be living in the same state by next Christmas. Then I cooked more just for us five on Christmas Day–my first roast beef! It was fabulous, just like I remembered from childhood. For some reason, even though I rarely eat red meat, I was craving roast beef with gravy, so I checked the Internet and talked to my butcher and made one. Yum.

* I read and read and read. I can’t even tell you much of what, because I don’t keep track of titles. I thought it might be nice to keep a list this year, but it’s January 2nd as I type this and I’ve already finished two books and begun a third this year and I suspect I will get tired of writing down titles by the end of the month, if not sooner.

Double Wave mitts at amyhoodarts.com

* I knit a pair of mitts from my own design, sewed my daughter a pair of leggings (successfully–and I have fabric to make more), and sewed myself a jersey knit thermal shirt. I took this picture and then noticed the streaky bathroom mirror. It’s clean now.

sewn jersey shirt at amyhoodarts.com

* I moved all my Art Together zines from e-junkie to Payhip, which is taking care of VAT. I also decided upon a topic for the next issue. I hadn’t started working on a winter issue yet, not knowing whether it would even be possible to sell it. So it will probably be a late winter or even spring issue, but I have an idea I’m excited about, and that’s the first, most important step. Anyway, I’m really glad an option materialized that would work for me to continue selling it without having to deal with other countries’ confusing tax laws. (My own country’s confusing tax laws are bad enough.)

* I chose ADVENTURE as my word for 2015. I want to view this move to a new state as an adventure for all of us!

* I began Lisa Sonora’s 30-Day Journal Project. Mmmm, we’ll see. I’ve found I’m not so good at doing one thing daily for any amount of time. I like to do rather a lot of creative-type things (plus all that reading), and I typically do at least something creative every day but not the same thing. So we’ll see.

* We spent a lot of time at home, happily. Reading, making things, watching movies, playing games–the boys are both very into Magic and Minecraft.

I hope you’re having a gentle entry into 2015. I’m not looking forward to returning to the regular schedule on Monday. I’ve so enjoyed our slow and easy mornings!

A Second Dress (Better Than the First?)

Ladybug dress at amyhoodarts.com

The second dress is complete, y’all. And it’s better than the first, because it has inside, hidden pockets.

pockets! at amyhoodarts.com

G likes it better because she likes short sleeves–while I’m wearing a thermal shirt, sweater, and wool socks, she’s running around in short sleeves and no socks at all. I’m happy about the pockets but already know I can do better on the next dress, whenever that happens. (I’m out of jersey knit fabric at the moment.) I keep admiring these dresses, the way the sleeves are sewn into the opening so well, the pleating, the way I did much better hemming the sleeves on the ladybug dress and they don’t flare at all. Another headband was requested, so I whipped that up after these pictures were taken.

twirling at amyhoodarts.com

New play dresses need twirling pictures. Of course!

Leveling Up: Sewn Knit Dress

At the end of the summer, my daughter picked out some Charley Harper knit fabric so I could make her some dresses. I’d seen the Anna Maria Horner Lemon Drop pattern and for some reason, that was the pattern that made me decide to figure out sewing with knits. I ordered it and made the top for myself first (I’d rather mess up learn on my own clothes than my daughter’s) and the shoulders were huge. I mean, just, humongous. I looked at the pictures on the pattern again and Googled for some finished examples and compared the girls’ pattern pieces to some of my daughter’s clothing and realized that using the Charley Harper fabric to make this pattern for her would be throwing good money after bad.

I discussed with the Twitter brain trust and ended up ordering the Oliver + S family pack of t-shirt patterns, with the idea of adjusting it to make a dress. (The shoulders on this are actually designed to fit regular people, even!) I shortened the t-shirt and added a skirt, which is just two rectangles, each the width of the full circumference of the shirt. And we have a dress, just perfect for a six-year-old.

Charley Harper dress at amyhoodarts.com

The full skirt twirls nicely, too.

amyhoodarts.com

I made her a matching headband from scraps because why not? I added patch pockets to this one, using the pattern pieces from the AMH pattern, I think just to make myself feel better for having spent the money on a pattern that I can’t use. I’m not happy with the patch pockets; they’re going to droop. So on her next dress–ladybugs, short sleeves, but otherwise the same concept–I decided to try interior pockets. I consulted my sewing reference book and one of her Lands’ End knit dresses and got to work.

interior pockets in progress at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not done with that dress just yet–I want to reinforce the pocket openings (I already know how I’d do it a little different next time) and then I just need to sew the skirt to the tee and I’m done. I’m particularly happy with how the skirt is sewn in on the first one. I pleated all that extra fabric in. Careful pleating, pinning, and sewing. Here’s how it looks from the inside…

pleating from inside the dress at amyhoodarts.com

and a close-up of the outside.

pleating on sewn knit dress at amyhoodarts.com

It turns out sewing with knits was the least of the difficulties here–the pattern I originally chose was unworkable. I’m pretty chuffed that I put this together and I love the Oliver + S t-shirt pattern. I think I’ll get lots of use out of that. The second time, the shirt whipped up quickly. The only place I had difficulty with the knit fabric itself was hemming the sleeves. They ended up with a slight flare, which I decided to call a design element. And you know what? My daughter told me (without knowing I’d struggled with the sleeve hems) that her favorite part was the way the cuffs ruffled a bit. There you go. Best dress ever (until the ladybug dress is finished!).

First Steps in Free-Motion Quilting

I decided I wanted to experiment with free-motion quilting. I want to draw with my sewing machine. This makes sense as a continuation of using embroidery as a line medium. It’s different, but related. Anyway, Sarah recommended this book.

book photo

So I borrowed it from the library. Right away I realized I didn’t have the right foot for my sewing machine, but my local quilting store had a darning foot that had been part of a trade-in, and the owner just…let me have it. It goes onto the machine completely differently from any of the other feet I’ve used, but my manual had directions. Once that was on, I followed the directions in the book for making first stitches on a practice pad.

free-motion quilting practice at amyhoodarts.com

I didn’t do too badly with the back and forth lines, but when I got to the swirls, some of those stitches were really uneven.

varying stitch lengths

Yikes–some really long ones in there! This is the point of practice, of course. Now check out the back of the practice pad.

Bobbin snot. It's a problem.

Bobbin snot. It’s a problem.

Whoa. But isn’t it interesting that it’s only in one direction? No bobbin snarls when I was pulling the fabric towards me, just when I was pushing it away. Hmm. I went to the trouble-shooting section of the book and tried the easiest-sounding solution first–I raised the feed dogs back up. And this is what happened:

better back2

 

The first lines have some loops on the back. Again, checking the book, I adjusted the needle tension and then continued on. Much better! That seemed to fix things.

I wanted to share all this because learning something new requires practice and trial and error, and I wanted to show these first wobbly steps. What I want to be able to do and what I can do at this moment are very far apart indeed, but the only way to get from one to the other is to keep practicing.

I’m linking up with Jen for Making + Listening, even though I didn’t title it that way. As for the listening part, it’s been all Phil and Paul and the Tour this week–one of my favorite times of the year.

Making + Listening::13/2014

This week I finished 13 zip pockets, to add to the pile to take to a craft fair later this month.

stack of finished pockets

It’s so satisfying to finally get to the point of turning them right-side out and seeing them complete.

stamped + embroidered zip pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Some nautical-themed pouches and two more trees.

I like to have a mix of stamped and embroidered, and I like to change up the colors.

embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Chickens! Flowers!

And it’s nice to have some varied sizes.

stamped and embroidered pouches at amyhoodarts.com

Once the fair is over I’ll update the Etsy shop and pay it a bit more attention. Dust off the shelves and whatnot.

As for listening…birds, World Cup, Pandora, and my kids. How’s your week been going?

Making + Listening::12/2014

I’m joining in with Jen this week to share a hat I sewed up Tuesday night, using this pattern.

Denim sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

My husband hunted around in his closet when he heard I was looking for denim for this and found a too-big pair of jeans with a rip in the knee. I wasted no time in cutting out the pattern pieces. The hat, by the way, is reversible. Presto-chango.

reversible sun hat at amyhoodarts.com

The cotton fabric is from stash. I bought it because I liked it and as soon as I saw the hat pattern I knew what I’d bought it for.

By the way, I think this is the first time I’ve posted a picture anywhere since my hair was cut in April. I wanted it about collar-bone length and neatened, and after almost three months’ of growing time, it’s still this short. (With layers! That I didn’t ask for!) But I’m okay with it now. It just had to grow for a couple of months first.

I’ll be making more of these hats, I’m pretty sure. I went to the local thrift store Wednesday morning and bought a large pair of jeans for $5. I had a twinge of guilt for planning to cut into perfectly good jeans, but I figure at least the money goes to the attached food pantry.

As for listening, I’ve been enjoying streaming Pandora through my cell phone and playing it via Bluetooth in the car. As I told my kids yesterday, when I was a kid, our family car didn’t even have a cassette player. It was radio or nothing.

“Did you have Internet?”

“Nope.”

“Wow. You’re that old?”

Making + Listening::10/2014

pockets in progress at amyhoodarts.com

This week I have been making basic pockets. That’s a stack with zippers sewn in, waiting to be top-stitched and sewn up (which took place about nine hours after I took the photo; I mostly sew at night after my youngest is in bed). Along with last week’s chicken, this stack contains more embroidery, some stamped images (you can see the bottom edge of an anchor), and some that are both stamped and embroidered (four more trees in various colors). I’m waiting until after this weekend before adding anything new–including the cards and notebooks that didn’t sell at last weekend’s fair–to the shop, because I’m meeting with a local shop owner on Saturday to see about consignment. (The store that carried items last year closed around Christmas and I figured it was time to look into doing that again.)

As for listening, like many parents of young children, I have been listening to my kids sing this. My 5yo especially belts it out, dressed in both her blue sparkly capes (this one layered under this one). “Let it Go” has been stuck in my head all week. Sometimes I belt it out too, when I just can’t hold it back anymore…

Linking up with Jen again this week.

DIY Paper Bag Binge

A couple of days ago I realized I ought to have merchandise bags of some sort if I’m selling at a fair. There isn’t any place that I know of locally where I can buy 25 or so flat paper bags, and I decided I didn’t want to pay for shipping, which can quickly get steep because of weight. So I figured I’d just make some. Several places we ordered from for Christmas use brown kraft paper as box filler, so I cut it to size and sewed up some bags.

sewn paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

I don’t have many things that need even that large of a bag, though, so I only made six of those. I made twenty paper bags out of map pages, though.

map paper bags at amyhoodarts.com

Turns out making these is like eating popcorn. It was hard to stop. The Internet has many tutorials for these; I happened to use this one at Urban Natural History. The paper is from a road atlas that Dawn sent me when she was cleaning things out before her latest move. Its pages are the perfect size!

I’ve no idea how many bags I might need or how many sales I may make. This is a big experiment. My 9yo thinks these bags are fantastic–and I have to agree with him. A big plus is that all these bags used materials I already had in the house. Perfect!

Craft Fair Announcement + Some Making

For those of you who are local, I’ll have a table at The Compass School’s Eco-Fair. Relevant info is on this flyer.

The Compass School Eco Fair flyer at amyhoodarts.com

I’ll be selling zippered pockets, of course, along with stamped Moleskines, stamped/printed blank cards, and possibly some matted prints. I sewed quite a few pockets last month, so this past week I’ve been busy with other things.

bunting + stamped notebooks at amyhoodarts.com

Up top is a portion of a bunting I stamped and sewed. It has eight of those triangles altogether, each with a different summery stamp. This is ultimately for the slider in our dining room, which right now is decorated with felt spring flowers on a crocheted vine. I like to change it up seasonally, but last year those flowers stayed up all summer. But I’m also going to use this to decorate my table at the fair.

Below are some small stamped Moleskines. I carved the house stamp a while ago but I don’t think I ever shared it, so here’s a close-up.

hand-carved house stamp at amyhoodarts.com

Finally, I’ve been painting rocks. I thought it would be nice to have some low-priced items that might appeal to kids, since it’s a school fair. These aren’t quite done yet. They’ll all get a coat of gloss acrylic varnish.

painted rocks at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not quite sure what to charge for these. Materials cost next to nothing, but of course they do take time (and very, very tiny brushes). Any ideas?