Posts by Nicole :

Sewing Tools and Techniques That I Use All the Time

vintage kenmore sewing machine sitting on a green cutting mat in front of a wallpapered background

I have started sewing again… regularly that is. For the past year our sewing situation has been a bit chaotic, so I haven’t really sat down at the machine to sew very much. However, we are now turning a spare room into a sewing and studio space- the sewing desk is on side of the room, and my art and work desks are on the other. The storage solutions are not finished yet, but the room is at a place where I can actually sit down and pull out a project, work on it and leave it there (without having to pack everything up, like when I was sewing in the living room or at the dining room table). Yes, of course, you can sew without a sewing room, but I enjoy it a lot more when there is a dedicated area for the creative mess. I will share a “studio tour” when it’s done, but in the meantime, while we’re on the topic of sewing, I realized that I have been sewing for over 20 years! I am definitely of the belief that sewing is a life skill; even if you don’t take it up as a hobby, it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal. As much as I have learned about sewing over the years there always seems to be more to learn and perfect… I guess it really is true that the more you learn, the less you know!

But today, here are some of my favourite sewing tools and techniques that I use all the time. These are the tips and tricks I have learned over the years: whether you’re new to sewing or not, maybe you’ll learn something new too!

bamboo corner turner for sewing

Bamboo Point Turner

I honestly don’t know how I could live without one of these point turners. When I lived far away from my family years ago (and thus no longer had access to my mom’s sewing supplies!) I didn’t have one of these corner turners and I found it so difficult to get nice points on things. A chopstick just doesn’t work as well as this little smoothing tool does.

crayola markers and tailor's chalk

Tools for Marking Fabric & Patterns

I have tried many different methods of marking fabric and patterns: graphite pencils, fabric markers, felt markers and more. Here are the ones I use the most often:

  • Tailor’s Chalk: Both the good and bad thing about chalk is that it rubs off- so I use this for lines that I will be stitching right away and don’t want to stay on the fabric permanently. I have chalk in yellow, blue and red for different colours of fabric. You do have to press slightly hard, so it works best for stiffer fabric in my opinion.
  • Transfer Paper: My mom has a huge bundle of vintage transfer paper like this (I forgot to take a picture) and I use a wheel tool to mark lines from patterns onto the fabric- such as darts or measurement circles. I also use them to trace patterns and then true up my lines after with a different pencil.
  • Crayola Pencil Crayons: I discovered that Crayola Twistable pencil crayons work really well for marking patterns. They are soft enough that you don’t have to press hard and wrinkle your pattern, but the markings stay put. Also, unlike pencils or felt markers, they don’t bleed or get graphite dust everywhere. I’ve also used them to mark fabric (you can also slightly erase the markings with a regular white eraser) but I wouldn’t use them anywhere you don’t want a permanent mark showing.

giant roll of kraft paper

Paper for Pattern Making

Speaking of pattern making, I like to use Kraft Paper rather than tissue paper. I like that it has a little bit more durability than tissue pattern paper, for the patterns I am using all the time, but it’s not too stiff and so it flexes a bit with the fabric.

kraft paper pattern cut out

The patterns last well, it’s easy to write on, and because it’s on a roll, you don’t have to piece sheets together for long pattern pieces.

magnetic pin cushion

Magnetic Pin Cushion

This is one of the best sewing tools my mom ever bought and that I stole from her. (It’s actually a shared space, so I didn’t really steal it) It seems kind of silly to use a magnetic pin cushion instead of the dish the pins came in, or a regular stuffed cushion…but it really does make pinning so much easier. It’s quicker to grab a pin because you can’t spill the container, and if one does drop it just snaps back on the magnet. Also, if you have a pile of pins you didn’t put back on the magnet, (or if you drop some on the floor!) you can just hover the magnet and they all leap back on like magic! If I was starting out now, I don’t think I’d go for the plastic one (which has a compartment on the bottom we never use) but would rather get a magnetic parts tray from a hardware/automotive shop, or would take a pretty vintage saucer or coaster and put my own magnet on the bottom.

glass headed and safety pins

Pins

Not all pins are created equal. I have tried plastic head pins, quilting pins, tiny metal headed pins…but I prefer the round glass head pins the most. The white pins above are glass head, and the yellow ones are plastic. Unless I need a slightly stronger pin, in which case I will go for the yellow ones, I tend to use the glass head ones. I like them because you can pin things in place and then gently press over them with your iron (gently so as not to scratch your iron), which you can’t do with plastic pins. Well, you can, but then you end up with a mangled and melted pin head (not that I’ve ever done that…)

As for safety pins, I am new to this sewing tool. Of course I’ve always had safety pins around, but I’ve never used them for sewing, because I thought they were mainly for quilting. However, I recently discovered that if you’re doing any sewing that you want to transport without pins falling out, then safety pins are a much better choice than standard straight pins. This works great for hand sewing too, since I usually like to do large amounts of hand sewing, such as hems, in a comfortable spot rather than at the sewing desk.

twin sewing machine needle

Twin Needle

I am new to using a twin needle, but this is one of the neatest little sewing inventions. You can use a twin needle on your standard sewing machine, running two top threads and one bobbin thread, resulting in two lovely, evenly spaced rows of stitching. For anywhere you want to topstitch details and especially if you are sewing knits, then a twin needle is definitely a good thing to use. I’ve only used it a few times, but every time I have I have been super impressed with how well those neat, little rows turn out!

ladder stitch hand sewing

Ladder Stitch

This is my absolute favourite hand sewing technique, which I learned only a few years ago, but use constantly. I think it’s easier to learn how to do this simple stitch from a video, rather than a picture, so here’s a little tutorial I found on Youtube. I love this stitch because it’s nearly invisible and works so much better than a slipstitch for certain applications. I use this stitch to close up pillows, or to finish off the edges of a waistband. Sometimes trying to sew a small little seam with the machine is harder than just hand stitching it, and this technique works so well for a lot of those finishing touches.

wall picture frame thread organizer

Thread Organizer

Perhaps I should have saved this tip for the future sewing room tour, but thread organization is such a huge part of sewing; if you can’t easily find your materials, then your whole project is going to take longer and be much more frustrating. After years of struggling with spools of thread in boxes and drawers, I made this wall organizer out of a picture frame, a piece of plywood for the backing and a piece of fabric. I took 3″ nails and spray painted them white (so they’d look nicer). Then I cut the piece of plywood to fit inside the frame, covered it with fabric (because it was splintery) and glued it in place. I then marked out a grid and hammered the nails into the wood at an angle. The only thing I’d change is that I should have given some more space between each nail, because the thicker spools are hard to place as they bump into each other. However, despite that, this works so well for organizing all the thread and making it easy to grab the correct colour at a glance!

ribbon wound onto cards and placed into a drawer

Ribbon Spools

Another organization technique that I recently implemented, which really frees up space and makes things easier to find, is winding the majority of my ribbon and lace onto cards. I used to leave them all on the cardboard spools they come on, which took up a huge amount of drawer space. Also, for ribbon bought by the yard, I used to just wind them in a loop like a yarn skien, but they would inevitably end up in a tangled mess. Now, after wrapping them onto cards, I can see at a glance how much I have of each, and can unwind as much as I need. And as a bonus, the cards take up about 1/2 of the space the spools did, freeing up a huge area in my drawers and baskets.

fabric scraps or cabbage saved in baskets and bags

Sewing Cabbage or Carbage

Simultaneously one of the downfalls and benefits of sewing is all of the scrap fabric you will end up with. (Or “cabbage” or “carbage” as it’s called.) What to do with all of these scraps? I like to sort them into different sections and purposes. I keep a basket on the top of my desk, and I place all scraps into this basket as I work on a project. Then as I have time later, I go through the basket and sort into these categories, for different purposes.

  • Large scraps of 1/2 metre or more that I could potentially make another project out of, I fold up and place back on the shelf.
  • Medium scraps of less than 1/2 a metre, that could be used as a facing, lining, patch for mending, or to make a small project like a pouch, I save in a large basket.
  • Small cotton scraps of 3″ – 6″ that are large enough to be quilting squares, I save in a drawstring bag. I’ve been saving some of these pieces for years, and was finally able to use some of them in this purse.
  • Tiny scraps of less than 3″, or small pieces of synthetic fabric that I wouldn’t use for a quilt, are cut up into tiny 1″ pieces and saved for stuffing. You can make floor cushions, dog beds, historical costuming hip/bum pads etc. with these tiny pieces. Of course, I don’t always need all of these scraps, so they do sometimes end up in the trash, unfortunately.

Well, there are my favourite sewing tools and techniques; at least all of the ones I can remember right now!

Do you sew? What techniques and tools do you use most often? Do you have any tips and tricks to add to this list?

Social Saturday | May 14

purple and blue pansy bloom

Hello Dear Readers, how was your week? It’s been a while since I did a Social Saturday post, so I thought I should do one today, since I’ve got a few collected pictures.

The greenhouses are open so I picked up a Coleus, below, and my mom some pansies, above. I love the colours of the leaves on this one! I’m going to plant this in a rustic crackled blush pink pot I have- I think that will go really nicely with the red tones in the leaves.

red and lime green coleus plant

A while ago I mentioned that I was redoing my quilt and needed to just finish the edge binding- here’s how it turned out. I love the nice clean edge it gives to the quilt. It took me approximately 3 hours to stitch… or the length of one movie marathon.

the edge of a bed, showing the quilt and bedskirt

corner of the quilt binding

Our local library is very small, and doesn’t have much selection (if we didn’t have inter-library loans, I would never read anything), but the one thing it does have is a lot of vintage books still in circulation.

vintage library book covers and illustrations

Aren’t these two volumes beautiful? The gilt one is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. And the other is a biography of Beatrix Potter, which was so enjoyable to read!

I have been on a winning streak lately with thrift shopping. For the past year or so I haven’t found much worth bringing home, but in the past few weeks I have found quite a few great vintage pieces.

vintage thrifted items- glasses, baskets and boxes

A large basket that needs a bit of repair, but was only $2 so I couldn’t pass it up, a couple of hatboxes that I plan to recover, some “Boopie” glassware that matches my other sets, and a velvet t-shirt that I plan to use the fabric for a hat.

thrifted tea pot, box, silver items and a glass candle votive

And above, a little blue and white teapot (which is the exact same design as the one my sister has!), a silver napkin holder and pedestal, a carved wooden box and an embossed glass votive I’m going to pour a beeswax candle into. The box just needed a bit of refreshing with some linseed oil and it was good to go.

And finally, to end this post, these are the first flowers to come up each Spring, and they are so cheerful. They are wild Woodland Tulips and they are are only a few inches tall, but they make such an impact.

wild yellow woodland tulips

I hope your week is a wonderful one, whatever you have planned!

All Manner of Hats, From My Fashion Scrapbook

large white hat with a rolled up brim in the front

Along with the warm weather, comes the time to wear summer hats, starting with the Easter bonnet, of course. While I did wear a hat for Easter this year, it’s been featured on the blog before, so I didn’t post it again. Instead, how about we take a look at some of the hats and hair accessories I have saved in my fashion scrapbook? Many of these are from wedding magazines, but could be easily worn for other occasions. I was so inspired when looking through these: now I want to go and make some flower hats! In the past I have made flowers and headbands, but they’ve always been a bit smaller…I really think it’s time to make some large statement flowers!

Above- one of my favourite hats featured in a UK wedding magazine, wouldn’t this be so perfect for an outdoor wedding?

Speaking of oversized flowers, here are two lovely ones. I think these would be fairly straightforward to make. I should try…

large chiffon flower hair accessory

oversized chiffon flower fascinator

These pink hats, below, were probably the first pictures to start me on my vintage fashion journey. I think they were by Lilliput Hats from about 15 years ago. I’ve always been so in love with the colour and shape of them. So perfect for Spring!

pink floral and velvet and netting cap hats with veils

pink cap hats with tulle and netting veils

I love these polka dots flowers; these images were from about 12 years ago. That shape of hat was super popular back then, wasn’t it? I think one of the first hats I ever bought was a tan wool hat very similar to this.white house black market hat and floral hair accessory

large statement hats for a wedding

Here are a few wedding hats and accessories, that could definitely be worn elsewhere. Again, with the oversized flowers, the left one above is so fun! And on the right, I love the exaggerated tilt shape.

wedding hats for outdoors

wedding hats

I really like the tilt on this one, above right, too.

60's inspired wedding with little fascinator hat

Here is a fabulous hair accessory/hat/fascinator worn by Oprah in Vogue 1998, featuring flowers and feathers for an amazing theatrical look!

dramatic theatrical hat oprah vogue 1998

flower crown by Free People

And finally, no round up of hats is complete without the classic, but nevertheless fabulous, oversized straw hat.

two large oversized natural straw hats

What kinds of hats do you like to wear in the Spring and Summer? Which one of these is your favourite? Are you inspired to try creating some large flowers to dress up some hats and headbands?

The Peace of Easter

pysanka easter eggs in a basket full of moss

“Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53: 4-5

On this day in between the remembrance of Christ’s death and his resurrection, I am so thankful for the Peace that the cross means to those who seek Him.

I wish you all a blessed Easter season, dear Readers!

White And Purple Tulips

a bouquet of 5 white and 5 purple tulips in a milk glass hobnail vase

More tulips! ‘Tis the season for them, after all. They had them at the grocery store and we just couldn’t go home without a bunch. My mom and sister picked out these white and purple tulips because they were just barely starting to open..and they turned out to be perfect.

purple and white tulips on the first day just opening

tulip bouquet in front of a window with light shining through

These photos above were from the second day, when they were just starting to open.

tulip bouquet of white and purple flowers

They opened fully without shrivelling and they’ve lasted over a week now. I put a penny in the vase to see if it would encourage them to stand upright (considering what happened with my last bunch…) and it worked. The purple ones, in particular, are incredibly pretty; as they’ve aged the tips have turned blue.

purple tulip with blue tips on the edge

Tulips always put me in the mood for spring. It will be a while before any of our spring flowers start to bloom in our garden, but in the meantime we have these cut blooms to enjoy.

What is your favourite cut flower? Are you always tempted to bring home a bouquet when you see them at the grocery store?

purple and white tulip bouquet in a milk glass vase

white tulip fully open