April 10, 2012

Coverstitch tutorial (A Historic First)

Coverstitch is the stitch you see on the hems of t-shirts, and clothes made of stretchy material: in my case, the wrap dresses which form my uniform. Typically you see two parallel stitches on the outside of the garment, and on the inside it’s a little web of stitches. The big benefit to it is that it stretches – if you tried to sew a regular seam on these materials, every time the material stretched the stitches would all break. You either need an overlock/coverstitch serger or a separate coverstitch machine to do this, though there are great “cheat” methods using a twin needle on a regular sewing machine. I’m using my Bernina 1300dc convertible machine.

Perfect Coverstitch Tutorial: Cashmerette

Here’s how I do it:

1. Mark the *fold* line with a Mark B Gone washable marker.

2. Mark the same width onto a piece of cardboard….. Mysterious, eh?!

3. Use said bit of cardboard to help iron an even fold in the fabric: put the card on the blue line you just marked, fold over the material to the line on the cardboard, and iron away!

4. Get yourself some “Lite Steam-a-Seam 1/2″ ” tape. Basically it’s an iron-on interfacing tape, which non-sewers can use to fix hems. However, it also serves a very useful purpose in keeping material stuck together before you sew it (otherwise, especially in the case of doing coverstitch, the fabric often slips as you’re trying to sew).

5. Unfold your fabric, and place the tape just above the fold line: there will be a sticky side you put on the material, and a paper tape on the top. Iron very lightly to make it stick.

6. Gently peel off the paper backing, leaving the (almost invisible) interfacing on the fabric. Then, fold the fabric up, press to stick the hem together, and iron again on the top to make the bond stick.

7. Put a colourful thread into your bobbin, and then using a regular sewing machine, baste stitch on the wrong side of the hem, as close as you can get to the edge of the fabric. If anything, you want to be slightly on the double-fabric side rather than the single fabric side.

Here’s what it looks like: I used purple thread in my bobbin and white in the needle. You can see that on the right side of the fabric you now have a purple line which is showing exactly where the folded over fabric ends… (clever, eh?)

8. Now, use the purple line as a guide to get the coverstitch in exactly the right place (if you don’t do this, it’s incredibly difficult to blindly sew in the right place). You want your serger left needle to be just *slightly* to the right of the purple guide line.

This is what it will look like: the purple guide line and the double coverstitch serger lines

9. Finally, rip out the purple basting stitch, leaving you just with a perfectly placed coverstitch!

Yes, it’s a little intensive, but it works well and gives a professional finish, so in my opinion, well worthwhile!

*UPDATE!* I thought I’d share a little tip that I’ve learned from another 2 years of doing coverstitch 🙂 It’s quite hard to hit the exact edge of the turned up hem, so sometimes you end up having a little raw edge, which while it doesn’t unravel, it doesn’t look great. Solution? Serge the hem first (without trimming any fabric) before you turn it over! That way, even if you don’t hit the hem perfectly with the coverstitch, it’s still all finished.

April 10, 2012

A craft room (corner) of one’s own

Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Yes, readers, I am indeed referring to a Real Simple magazine bought on impulse at the Whole Foods checkout. What can I say: de-cluttering advice and beautiful photography of tape dispensers does it for me.

However on this occasion there was a rather lovely before/after of some Hamptonite’s craft room, which is no doubt adjacent to her husband’s yacht carpentry studio. And then while pondering a future time when I might have a craft room, it occurred to me: why, I have a craft apartment! And no-one can stop me! Ah ha ha ha (evil crafter laugh).

So, out with the “work desk” (finally admitting to myself that I do schoolwork on my lap on the sofa has been mentally refreshing), and in with the sewing corner!

As you can see from this artistic photo (amazing what a lack of colour will do): it is situated overlooking a cherry blossom tree, one of the perks of the treehouse-like vibe of my apartment.

Highlight #1: the transparent peg board, as seen in Real Simple, where I can now hang my stuff up! Granted, scissors and a rotary cutter may not be the most aesthetically pleasing wall display ever seen, but it’s my craft corner so I don’t care! This will also significantly reduce the time I normally spend looking for my scissors, estimated at about 40% of total sewing project time.

Highlight #2: side-by-side serger and sewing machine! Perfect for those lazy seamstresses among us, I can sit on my chair between the two and with a mere swivel change from a firm seam to a flexible overlock. Such things are dreams made of. Also observe: my paper pattern blocks hanging on the wall! A great solution for keeping them flat and accessible.

Highlight #3: my little library. A rather modest display (in my opinion) of sewing books, white Container Store lacy files with my patterns and sewing machine manuals, and a basket of serger thread and iron-on interfacing.

Pretty exciting, eh? It’s a great balance between having my sewing things visible the whole time (which significantly increases my likelihood of actually *doing* something), but keeping it contained in a corner rather than rambling all over my apartment.

I’m sure Ms Woolf would be proud.

March 29, 2012

It’s been too long!

Do you know that saying, that work expands to fill the time that you give it? Well I seem to have discovered another: that creativity shrinks in inverse proportion to the amount of time you give it.

3 weeks free to cavort about and do sewing… what did I achieve? Well, I did make one dress – my first wrap dress in fact. Which isn’t bad! But it also only took a day and a half, leaving about 2.5 weeks of… going to yoga and failing to do sewing.

Now that I have a full time job and two school classes? Ideas coming out of my ears and boundless energy! Which I have decided to embrace. Creativity apparently needs boundaries, so now it’s happy.

Here’s a few things what I have been up to:

1. I have been wearing the aforementioned first dress, though I don’t have photos of it yet. This will be addressed, next time it’s clean.

2. I finally finished my fabric stash box covers! I’m pretty pleased with them, and they provided a lot of entertainment embroidering while watching TV.

3. I made a t-shirt! After failing to find any nice stretch fabric anywhere (it’s all so plasticky it’s unbelievable – though if I ever need to make children’s novelty fleece pyjamas or a spandex leotard I know where to go: Joann’s Fabrics) I bit the bullet and bought the expensive 100% natural bamboo jersey from Gather Here that I’d been fondling on and off for weeks. I used the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern, and once I figured out how to put twill tape in the shoulders (which was hard….) I made it in a mere afternoon. Ok, so the neckline is *slightly* wonky, but I was overall pretty pleased. And this garment really opened my mind to all the possibilities of altering things to be *exactly* how you want them – the right neckline, length of the sleeves, length of the top and so on. Once you have the basic skills this dressmaking stuff is ace.

Cutting the fabric from the pattern I traced onto butcher paper:

Those tricky twill tape shoulders! Need a bit more practice to avoid the wavy look

The emergence of a distinctly t-shirt looking garment (please ignore the irregularly widthed neckline…)

Et voila!

I have a whole queue of projects coming up:
– another wrap dress with fabric I had custom-printed from
– a Colette Sorbetto top made with Liberty Fabric (will be swinging by Gather Here for the sidewalk sale at the weekend in the (vain) hope it might be at a discount!)
– an “infinity dress” made with some super-soft damson coloured jersey that I found
– some more t-shirts, once I can find decent fabric

Yep, it’s all excitement chez Cashmerette #2! And I shall leave you with the unmistakeable sign of spring, right outside my sewing nook:

February 7, 2012

Sashiko and embroidery galore!

OK, so while the plans for the next month are super ambitious there has been *some* activity over the past few weeks.

Exhibit 1: The I-can’t-make-it-to-class-but-I’ll-try-anyway Kindle Case.

While Gather Here is undoubtedly a heavenly place, unfortunately heaven only has space for about 4 people at a time for evening classes. People are literally signing up in the middle of the night when they come up, so sadly I wasn’t able to make the Sashiko embroidery class. But it looked SO COOL! So I thought I’d just give it a bash by myself, by free-copying off the little picture on the course ad on the website. What could go wrong?

OK. Well. It doesn’t quite look like it’s meant to. See any symmetrical flowers in there? No, me neither. But it was still really quite pleasing, I must say. And my wee Kindle is now all cosy and nestled up and ready for some hot touch-screen page-turning action.

Exhibit 2: the first of my stash covers is finished! I only had enough elastic to finish one, but I’m pretty pleased with it – this is the Plain Fabric basket (if that isn’t, er, apparent…..). All the rest are embroidered now, so just a quick trip to the shops to get some more elastic and we shall be done. So I can set fire to my house again without fear for my fabrics. Phew!

February 7, 2012

Mildly obsessive? *Me*?!

Well it is all a-change here at Cashmerette Heights, or at least at our South End branch. For after 11 long years of working at the place of immeasurable freebies and mild brainwashing, I am off! And before I start anew, I have Three. Whole. Weeks. entirely devoted to leisure. And we all know what this means Cashmerette readers….. it’s a CRAFTSPLOSION!

This has happened before, I’ll admit. Sometimes I get fixated on crafty things and can’t stop thinking about them. I don’t often put a bird on it (yet) , but I often put bunting on it,or get obsessed with embroidering everything (I swear for a period of about a month, every time the boyf mentioned a noun I thought “hmmmm could I embroider that?!”).

But this is the first time that I actually have the free time to execute! How exhilarating. So here is the planned list of crafty projects to be undertaken in the afternoon after daily yoga (Self-improvement? Moi?).

1. MASTER THE WRAP DRESS. Eagle-eyed readers may remember that this is what brought me to sewing in the first place. And led to my almost instant disappointment when I realised that I needed a serger, and I couldn’t justify buying two sewing machines in the space of a month. Luckily for me I have a *very* attentive and generous Santa in my life, and now I have the tools! And a pattern! And the time! This is definitely the most important project which I am determined to figure out.

Here’s the pattern I’ll use:

2. Draft and make a pencil skirt. If the internets is anything to go by, making a tailored pencil skirt is actually not that hard, and it would be most satisfying making something that fits perfectly (the joy of the wrap dress of course being that you wrap it round yourself till it fits… but that’s another type of satisfaction). Winmill Fabrics,while generally not my favourite place, does have a great range of cool suiting fabrics, so I’m planning to get some and make this. And also maybe even put in a vent and lining….

The plan:

3. Make a long sleeved low scoop neck t-shirt. I bought this great pattern for the “Renfrew Top” from Sewaholic and if I can master this, between the wrap dress and the tshirts I will have covered approximately 87% of my wardrobe needs.

4. PUT CRAZY SLEEVES ON EVERYTHING! Personal friends are aware that I am in possession of a singularly cool and flattering DVF dress which has “wings” on it, and lo and behold but I have discovered that this ridiculously beautiful Australian blogger lady has only gone and posted a tutorial on it. I watched it on YouTube in the back of a taxi in Kentucky today, I kid you not. I am absurdly excited about this: at the very minimum, I shall be making some low scoop neck tops with frilly sleeves, and at least one dress. And perhaps putting them on everything else in my wardrobe. Maybe.

5. Finish my quilt. Ahem. I think I have done about 20 blocks of the over 100 at this point, but unless I make a bit of progress in this 3 weeks I don’t see it happening, so onwards and upwards!

Hmmm writing it all down makes it seem a lot more real… and ambitious. But hey, reach for the stars and you’ll grab the moon. Or a rose sleeve. Something like that, right?


January 30, 2012

A January crafternoon of firsts

Following the raging success of the Christmas Crafternoon, the crafty ladies of the Greater Boston Metro Area collected again to work their magic with fabric, notions and more than a couple of cups of tea. This month’s assignment: sock monkeys! For those of you unfamiliar with such things: they are monkeys. Made out of socks. Americans like them, and so, dear reader, shall you.

The Cashmerette posse attacked this challenge with meticulous tidiness and methodical work, as demonstrated here:

And we had a Crafternoon first: a homemade S’Mores feast courtesy of Melissa! For those not in the Yankee way, S’Mores are a delightful sugar-coma-inducing concoction of graham crackers (a bit like Ginger Nuts but less… crispy), marshmallows and chocolate. And if Melissa didn’t outdo herself with each element being homemade…. It will be a brave Cashmerettian who attempts to top that.

And there was another first: Anna learned how to sew! Taught by Professional Seamstress and Teacher Lauren, Anna not only did running stitch, but also whip stitch and embroidery backstitch. Not bad for a first go!

The rest of the crafters got on with our sock monkeys, each unique in their own way….

And what a motley crew they are!

Here’s Jenny’s, with a cheeky smile and a little shirt on:

Anna’s most creative Yoga Sock Monkey ™, in lotus position with a sweatband and a lululemon “OM” shirt on:

Caitlyn’s French monkey:

Lauren’s….. “special” monkey.

And here are the gang chillaxing in a bowl, with Melissa’s classic sock monkey wedged in the middle!

However, no sooner had the Crafternooners gone for a seventh cup of tea, but we discovered our sock monkeys having their own Simian Crafternoon! A bustle of pinning, cutting and measuring… What cheeky monkeys!

January 8, 2012

Keep calm, and carry on embroidering

We Cashmerettes are crazy cats, prone to wild Friday evenings spent under a duvet on the sofa, watching Modern Family and doing embroidery. Don’t hate us because we’re so cool.

The last month has seen some hardcore trans-Atlantic embroidering. First, the previously mentioned “Where there’s tea, there’s hope” piece, which is now framed and in my kitchen:

Where there's tea there's hopeWhere there's tea there's hope
Second, I set my house on fire*. This led to my sewing machine sadly being out of order due to oily ash spoilage-type-stuff, so it’s now in the sewing machine shop getting a January cleanse. That meant a new project was needed…. some embroidery!

The inspiration was another minorly-fire-damaged piece of my equipment: my fabric stash. I keep my fabric in wicker baskets on a nifty wire stand (the Cashmerettes enjoyed a thrilling trip to the Container Store last year. No really, it was thrilling), open to breathe the fine South End air. However, when this air is full of black smoke, that’s not so good. And, in fact, when it’s just generally open to dust, I have since realised. And thus a new project was born!

Fabric covers for my stash. Which obviously need to be embroidered, otherwise, how would you know what was in each one? Exactly. Thus the project has started with my “Projects” basket (where I keep things I’m currently working on):

Coming up: the plain fabric basket, patterns fabric basket, scraps basket *and more*.

Please try to contain your excitement, Cashmerettians.

Till soon!

*Yeah, actually, I did. I’m OK though. However, I now have a PSA: get fire extinguishers, people! They are very important. And very cheap. And stop your house burning down. Good deal.


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