Questions (& Answers) ~ Open Thread

on March 18 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 84 Comments

Here’s a chance to ask your burning sewing questions. Be sure to lend us your expertise with an answer or two as well!

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84 Responses to Questions (& Answers) ~ Open Thread

  1. Kelly says:

    Hi, I have just started sewing and am in the process of making a wee pinifore for my niece. it has 3 stars on the front which i have attached iron-on facing. Can anyone help with what i should do around the edge of the stars so they don’t frey?? I have had some people suggest i do blanket stitch all aroud the outside … does anyone have any other suggestions?

    PS I love this site, i have learnt dso much!!

  2. Carrie says:

    Ok – I am a total newbie. my husband is picking up my sewing machine today. I have two questions – what is good starter project, and what is a good book to have on hand?

  3. Carri Schramm says:

    I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the great questions and answers, and, for this blog – love it!!!

    I’m very very very new to sewing – taking my first classes and I love reading/seeing all the tips!

    Regarding bias tape making, on the back of my package of my 1 inch bias tape maker, there are instructions which include measurements.


  4. Cida says:

    Please I would like to have sewing classes I live in New York city does anybody can indicate a school for me
    thank you

  5. wendy says:

    I sure hope you find someone to teach you smocking, and if you don’t then check out these great books by the country bumpkin, they are the authors of many great books on smocking, here is there website the a-z of smocking is great! Also check on the web at (I think that is the one) it will list any SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) groups in your area or near you and there is always a member ready to teach a newbie some hand smocking.

  6. Laura Covington says:

    Oh my gosh, Holly, thank you SO much. This problem was keeping me up at night! I really appreciate your response.

  7. Holly says:

    Here’s a tutorial I posted on Crafster for a reversible dress that may be helpful. It doesn’t have the ties all the way on the side like a kimono, but it’s the same basic idea I think.

  8. Laura Covington says:

    Jennifer–thanks so much for responding. That’s exactly how I thought I would do it (leave an opening at the bottom), but the circular seams around the armholes makes it impossible to invert because it’s a circle (maybe that only makes sense when you do it1). There must be a way to make a garment entirely reversible (because I’ve seen them), but I can’t figure it out. Here’s a dress that inspired my idea:

  9. Emily says:

    Red-Swirl – For mechanics of quilting – I really have used the “Quilters Complete Guide” by Fons & Porter as reference. It has been around for a while. The styles they use for examples aren’t modern looking, but they know their stuff on making a quilt! It covers all aspects.

    I’m also looking for tips for making gathers/ruffles. They make me want to pull my hair! lol Yet, everything I want to make seems to be based on them. Someone must have a less painful way. I’ve tried the machine baste and then gather and the bunch it up behind the presser foot to gather trick. Help?

  10. Andrea Elizabeth Johnson says:

    Irene, Have you tried pressing it with a little steam or light starch?
    If the long sides of the side triangles are on the bias, they might have stretched a little. If you cut the border on the straight grain, you can ease the long sides of the side triangles into the border. If you plan to machine quilt your quilt layers together, that often solves the problem of areas that won’t lie flat.
    Other more experienced quilters than me might be able to offer better advice. If you could take it to a local quilt shop, I bet someone there could give you the best suggestions.
    Good luck! On-point quilts have their own tricky challenges that can drive a person a little crazy.

  11. Arnikka says:

    Oh and a hong kong seam is basically pressing the seam open, then using two strips of bias cut fabric(which can be in your fabric or in coordinating fabric for a pretty effect), you a.) take one side of the unfinished seam allowance, attach the edge of the bias to the edge of the seam allowance (wrong side of the bias fabric to right side of seam allowance)—sew. b.) wrap the free edge of the bias tape around the unfinished seam allowance edge which should turn the fabric of the bias tape to the right side—-then stitch in the ditch the bias fabric wrapped around the unfinished seam allowance……I give horrible directions but the finished product makes it like each seam allowance has been corded.

  12. Arnikka says:

    Hi Yetta: Thanks for the ideas, is there a pattern that you suggest for the kimono style tops or are you doing them free hand? For my son, I love vintage repro fabric from the 1930s, especially the juvenile boy prints which are alot less hokey (read: cheesy) than the modern juvenile prints. I use it to make johnjohns for him (vintage style overalls that were popular little boyswear from the 30s-60s) or waders(long “board” style shorts). When I make the waders in a print fabric, I select a good scene or focus point from the print fabric and then cut an applique from it to apply to a plain cotton onesie or tee using a satin stitch. The tee goes along with the waders and it ends up making cute little sets.

    I too have to avoid the urge to embellish with my boy’s clothing like I might with his sister’s. But there are still cutesy little add-ins and you can get away with more concerning baby boy’s clothing pretty much up to age 5 or 6 (what I call the nursery years). I feel like little boys in that age bracket shouldn’t necessarily look like mini-men but little boys complete with puppies, ducks, and bright colors. Rick rack is good, get creative with appliques–I like to go on top of a print even( ie, I just got some nifty vintage repro with farm animals on it—perfect for johns johns with a nice self made cow applique.) Kid’s clothing is supposed to please them and make them look like kids so you can get a little zany with it, just don’t pull out the lace for your son, lol.
    Sorry for so long I could talk about sewing alot…and I think I helped answer my own question a little bit too!!

  13. Jennifer Johnston says:


    could you sew the piece like you would a lined bag?, just leaving a bit open to turn the whole thing through to get it right side out again? (I hope that makes sense but see some of the bag tutorials on U-Handblog for more information, she has a tutorial on making a lined fabric grocery bag that does this)

  14. Yetta says:

    Arnikka: What is a Hong Kong seam? I’ve made a couple of tier skirts for my daughter. They are very easy, quick and customizable. I also want to try and make sun hats for her. I’ve read a few patterns and they look doable. Finally, I really like kimono tops. I’ve made her a jacket that is a kimono top style but am thinking of using a really light weight fabric to make tops for the summer. Good luck with your projects. Girls are a lot of fun to dress. What do you sew for your son? Mine’s 4 months old and things I make are too girly for him.

  15. jennyy says:

    Do you use a ruffler attachment for ruffles or do you baste and pull the threads or… ?
    Thanks in advance!

  16. Irene says:

    I need help with a diagonal set or on-point quilt I’ve been working on for ages. I finally got the whole quilt sewn together yesterday minus the corner triangles. It won’t lie flat. It’s all puckery
    and I don’t know what to do. Can someone offer some advice? The blocks are large (15″ finished) and I think the side triangles are the problem. I also wanted to add a border to the quilt if I could just get it to lay flat.

    Irene in the Buckeye State

  17. Arnikka says:

    Please! Help! I haven’t been able to find anything child-like and sweet in the stores for my daughter(she is 18 months), I love the boutique look but not the boutique prices, so I decide that this summer I would make a predominate portion of her summer things(and throw in a few jumpers for her brother). My big issue is this: I need ideas! I am used to finishing everything using couture techniques like Hong Kong seams and lots of hand sewing, in other words very time consuming. I got caught up on the first dress that I made her: a delightful shift that took me a week and a half to finish. Yes, a plain shift that by the time I underlined, lined, hong kong seamed, and hand stitched pieces took me almost two weeks! And now I almost don’t want her to wear it “to get dirty in” and she’ll never be allowed to eat in it, I’m kidding but you catch my drift—–there has got to be a better way without totally sacrificing quality—–Anyone with ideas on cute little girl’s clothing that is simple and or a quicker way to get things done. I don’t own a serger. And please beyond the pillowcase dress, I fear she might have an entire closet of them because I just gave up!

  18. Laura Covington says:

    I’m trying to design a child’s wrap dress (like a kimono closure) that is entirely reversible, but cannot figure out how you’d sew the armholes right sides together and then flip the whole thing right side out. Any ideas? There MUST be a way to do this that I just cannot come up with. Thanks for any help!

  19. Lindsay says:

    Jennifer & Megan-
    I was going to respond to both of your questions by recommending a walking foot for everything. Because the feed dogs cause the fabric to move and become uneven, I use a walking foot all the time. Obviously for quilting, but now even for sewing 2 pieces of fabric together. Megan, if you don’t have a walking foot, make sure to use lots and lots of pins. That will help keep the pieces even and your piecing precise. But if you’ve got a walking foot for your machine, use it!
    I have a Kenmore sewing machine from Sears and I recently bought a walking foot and a darning foot (I think that’s what it’s called) for free motion quilting and I couldn’t be happier.
    Hope that helps!

  20. Jennifer Johnston says:

    “Why, when I sew two pieced of fabric together, does the top one end up longer than the bottom one?”

    A: the feed dogs on your machine pull the bottom fabric through at a slightly faster rate than the machine foot pulls the top fabric through, so if the bottom fabric doesn’t hold on to the top one, the top one will either slide, or the bottom will bunch ever so slightly. Its the same concept that allows you to put binding on curves and sew sleeves into arm holes only in this case it doesn’t work in your favor. This is part of why I inquired about everyone’s regular use of a walking foot (which as I’m told is the equivalent of having feed dogs on both sides.) I’m hoping that if I get one for reg. sewing that it will help alleviate this problem. In the mean time I find if it has to be precise sometimes its best to so from the middle out instead of starting at an end.

  21. Jessica C says:

    Wow… thanks everyone for your comments… I’m certainly going to make a sewing night and also leave my machine set up all the time so I can use it anytime I get a moment! 🙂

  22. Cindy says:

    Nikki, Thank you very much! Makes perfect sense, I will give it a try!!

  23. Nikki says:

    This is in response to the question about sewing rick-rack into seams. First, baste it onto the edge of just one fabric (on the right side). Then, when you put the other layer of fabric onto it, flip it over and just sew right over the basting. That way the rick-rack stays in place and you know just where it is. Hope this helps!

  24. Nikko says:

    Cara — I just purchased the book “Fast Fit” by Sandra Betzina that addresses just about every alteration that I could think of. I haven’t really had a chance to sew anything since I bought the book, but have read the entire thing cover to cover, and her methods seem intuitive and easy to follow.

  25. Finishing edges:
    I don’t have a serger either (em…. the day I get my paws on a Babylock… em…) but my sewing machine has a double overlock stitch. Check to see if you have that, too. I didn’t even know it is on my machine until I took my machine in for a tune up and asked the store owner how she finishes her edges. I’ve been using that on quilter’s cotton as well as knits. I made a skirt and some pants for my kids and the stitches are still holding everything together after a few cycles in the washer.

  26. Bias tape making:
    I think Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol has good info on how to cut the fabric and make the tape. (p21, 41-42) She recommends using a bias tape maker. I bought a couple but haven’t tried them out yet. I know a couple of sewer who swears by them though.

  27. Julie Lueck says:

    Smocking… I always recommend finding a class. It is currently making a comeback so now is the time. Finding a class can be REALLY hard if you live outside of the southeast. I would recommend going to the site and seeing if you have a local chapter. They would be my first stop.

    Most people hate the dots. It takes more time to do the dots than make the garment. So if you can find a place to teach classes then they should have a pleating service. Pleating is something that is also an art in itself so I would hold off on trying to buy a pleater. If you cannot find a local saga chapter or shop then I all of the country bumpkin books from austrailia are GREAT. find them at

  28. Tina says:

    I buy my wool felt from Weir Dolls & Crafts. They also sell everything else you might need like wool roving, wool batting, dollmaking supplies, needle felting supplies, etc. They sell 100% wool felt, as well as 70/30 and plant-dyed colors. Hmmm…they have new thick wool felt squares and shapes. I’ll have to check those out.

  29. Andrea Elizabeth Johnson says:

    For Red_Swirl:
    I agree with Dawn, “Your First Quilt Book or Should Be” be Carol Doak is really outstanding. In my opinion, it’s the best book for brand-new quilters and it is written by a highly regarded, well-known quilter. I continue to refer to it.

    Have fun and don’t fret over your first quilt – I recommend you start with a baby quilt. We all laugh over the mistakes in our first quilt. Each quilt will be a stepping-stone for the rest of your quilting life!

    Yes, piecing refers to making a quilt by sewing together pieces of fabric. In a traditionally pieced quilt, you cut pieces to make square blocks, and then you sew together the blocks in rows, and then you sew together the rows. Seam allowances for quilts should be an accurate 1/4 inch, so your pieces and your blocks and your rows will fit together well. You should consider buying a 1/4 inch quilting foot for your machine for that, but there are other tricks, such as putting wall-painting tape on your machine to mark a 1/4″ seam. If you get a good book for teaching new quilters, it should explain binding, and it’s not all that mysterious once you’ve done it once. You can put on bindings with several different methods and which one you choose is part preference and part what works best for the size of the quilt – some people think bias binding is best for large quilts because it’s really strong, but some people like to cut binding strips on the straight grain because it doesn’t stretch. There are advantages both ways. Some people find putting on the binding to be tedious, but I enjoy it. It’s not hard. Triangles are also not difficult if you have a good book that explains it well, but I found I really learned the most about how to piece triangles from a teacher – I learn better by watching than reading. I think the best quilt patterns to use for your first quilt are: Irish Chain, Rail Fence, or Log Cabin – no triangles in those patterns, but they still are wonderful patterns that can be used to make very fun quilts. My first quilt was a baby-size quilt. I used what I thought were two rather ugly, cheaper fabrics, because I knew the quilt would have alot of imperfections. It did have ALOT of imperfections when I finished, but I actually loved how the two ugly fabrics looked when quilted together in the Irish Chain pattern! So you just never know. The important thing is just to HAVE FUN and don’t fret, enjoy learning!

  30. debra says:

    NO questions here…..because so many have been answered already. Thanks for this post, it is very helpful. I love reading thru it, I’m learning so much! 🙂

  31. Megan D says:

    Why, when I sew two pieced of fabric together, does the top one end up longer than the bottom one?

  32. Deb C. says:

    This is in response to red_swirl/ginevrz questions about quilt reference books. I have bought many, and many are not worth the money for the amount of information provided. However, there two books which I feel are invaluable; one I refer to all the time is “The Quilter’s Ultimate Visual Guide” and secondly is “The Complete Idiots Guide to Quliting, Illustrated”
    Hope this helps.

  33. amanda says:

    To Ashley C. You should get a good sewing reference book. There are a lot of options as far as finishing seams. You can use a french seam, which encloses the edges. French seams are not good for curves or very thick fabric. There is also a flat fell seam, which involves clipping one side of the seam allowance and basically folding the other over the cut a sewing very close to the edge. I bet you can google these and find some tutorials. You can bind the edges. If your machine has on overcast foot you can also try that.

  34. Carolyn says:

    Concerning a useful beginner’s quilting book: I like “Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting” by Sonja Hakala. There’s a little bit of everything in there- and the techniques are described well, with lots of pictures (but I must admit that I am not inspired by some of her designs, and the section on machine quilting is sparse). But, its good value for the money.

    My question: I seem to have to fiddle with my machine’s tension when I use my walking foot. Is this my imagination or will changing feet cause the tension to change?

  35. Sharon Gollman says:

    Threads Magazine has a wonderful web site on many things regarding sewing. Here are their directions on altering a pattern:

    They also came out with a DVD on how to fit properly:


  36. Christy says:

    For Red_Swirl – I have to agree that Your first quilt book (or it should be) by Carol Doak is a life saver. It has a great chapter on how to cut the bias strips. She uses the fabric very economically, and I find you use less fabric her way rather than just cutting on the 45. I pull this book out every time I am cutting bias strips or finishing a quilt. For Melanie on smocking- Sandi Henderson has a good tutorial on her blog: I haven’t tried it yet but it sure looks fun. Good Luck!

  37. Kim says:

    Ashley H., I like to use my pinking shears to finish my seams. I don’t have a serger either and am not so great at doing the zigzag finish so that it looks nice. But pinking the seam allowance works great and is super easy.

    Molly, about colored wool felt, I’ve gotten some from JoAnn’s before, but they seem to carry more neutral colors. You might also try
    for better colors and other doll/toy-making supplies. They’re not the cheapest place around, but they’re a good jumping off point.

    Jessica C., do you keep your machine set up and ready to run at all times? I find that even with 3 kids at home, I can still manage to squeeze in a little sewing everyday if my machine is always ready. Of course, this may not be quite the revelation to you that it was to me…

  38. charli says:

    In response to Delaina-

    I was just reading on jcaroline’s blog about what a tough time she had sewing her minky as well, and it got me thinking that you could maybe use some sew-in interfacing to help stablize things or even brown paper bags or something of the sort that can be torn out once you are done basting the material together.

  39. Cara says:

    Do you have a favorite reference for really learning how to alter clothes/patterns? I can hem or take in the sides, but I frequently need to take in the waist or the bust and that gets tricker. I would really love to learn how to properly take in a pattern, as most don’t come my size or fit in one place (hips) and not in another (waist, bodice). I’ve found very basic, but usually they’re not addressing the problems I have.

  40. Cara says:

    Deborah – I’ve always just picked the colors I like and in no way find the color wheels helpful. But, I do have a little trick. To figure out whether I like colors together, I stack the bolts up together on the top of a shelf, rack of bolts, whatever makes them more or less eye level. I then back up ten or more feet and then squint a little. If I like how it looks, I’ll like the colors together. I’ve read of others doing the same thing but using a prism that creates a kaleidoscope out of your surroundings. That would probably be even more accurate, but I never remember to buy one of those little prism kaleidoscopes and so I stick with squinting.

  41. Cara says:

    Ashley – Try investigating French Seams (and I sure hope I remembered the name right) for a nicely finished seam. Very basically, you first sew your seam with WRONG sides together but with a smaller seam allowance. I just always use 1/4″ seam allowance for that. Then, turn the seam so right sides are together, press and sew as usual. The rough seam should now be sandwiched in to the seam allowance.

  42. Jennifer Johnston says:

    The trick is to make one side of the tape slightly larger than the other side, sew down the narrower side first and then when you fold it over the extra length will be taken up in the fold so when you sew it down they will be even 🙂
    As long as its not a computerized machine sewing machines are remarkably easy to repair. They have so few parts that its usually easy to tell whats broken or jammed or needs oil. As long as you can remember where to put all the pieces back in. Also, I have seen machines die of over oiling, in which case you would need to use q-tips and acitone (fingernail polish remover) to get the gunk out, but don’t forget to re oil when its all clean.
    If you can get the number off the machine Singer has an archive all all the machines they’ve ever made with their instruction manuals on their website, that will give you a good place to start.
    Take the waist band off the pants and pin up the excuse the expression, crack of the pants in the back to take up excess, and or at each hip seam to distribute gathers, cut the waistband down in the middle back seam to the aproprieate size, don’t forget new seam allowance for sewing the two halves back together, then sew it back on the pants.
    French seaming looks very professional on home made items, their should be lots of tutorials out there.
    Would double sided fuseable interfacing work?
    about picking colors, when in doubt I always squinch my eyes up so the fabric choices are blurry I find it helps me ignore the pattern so I can see how the colors look.

    Ok as for my question,
    Does anyone use a walking foot? Do you find it helpfull with everyday projects or does it get in the way? can you put different feet on the walking part?


  43. Carol says:

    Betty: To quilt in sections:,,HGTV_3298_1507325,00.html

    Carrie – paper piecing can be tricky if you’ve never seen it! I went serching for online help and so far this pdf was the best:

  44. Sharon Gollman says:

    For taking in pants, you should take them in at the side seams, not the center back or center front seams. You have to take the waistband off if they are too big in the waist, otherwise, start at the current seam in the hip area and gradually make your increase the seam allowance to the way you want it to fit. I hope this makes sense. I would go straight down the leg to the hem, which means you have to let the hem out too. I don’t think it would be a good idea to end veer back to the original seam towards the hem, but that is JMHO.

  45. Kirsten W. says:

    Hi there! Thanks to those of you that have suggested favorite quilting beginner books here – I have made a couple quilts and just hand-tied them in the past. Now I have finished piecing a quilt top and I’m hoping to hand-quilt it. Hopefully I can get to the library – but until then, does anyone know of an online tutorial or resource on hand-quilting I could check out?

    As far as making time for sewing, I have to say I am completely unbalanced – I won’t sew anything for months, then I get inspired and my machine comes out and I can’t think about anything else (like right now)! All my other household chores have fallen by the wayside. Ooops! 🙂 Kirsten

  46. molly says:

    I’m interested in finding where to get good wool felt (in a nice variety of colors) and combed carded wool for stuffing little toys. Does the Sew Mama Sew store ever carry those things? Other online or brick and mortar stores? thanks!

  47. Andrea Heinz says:

    Amy, I live in a small apartment with 4 kids. I have a drop leaf table in my living room. I can put up both sides for fabric cutting. but if I am only sewing I just put up one side. Ikea has one called Norden which has 6 drawers in it! Also it folds down to be only like a foot deep with both sides down. But with both sides up it is like 53″ long! If you can afford it, its a great buy at around 130$
    Other wise you can search on craigslist for an old drop leaf dining table.

  48. Cindy says:

    I would like to know if there is a trick to sewing ric rac into the seam for a decorative edge of a pillow or say a place mat. I mean how do you know where it is when you have it sandwiched between the top and bottom of the pillow or placemat. I never get it even or miss it all together. Hope my question makes sense. Thanks

  49. Kate says:

    My question was about bias too, but thanks for all the information that you have put in the commments here. I bought a bias attachment for my machine, but I’m finding that really hard to get used to.

  50. Georgia says:

    charli–go ahead and let him at your machine! You’ve got nothing to loose, right? If anything you’ll either still have to get it fixed or you’ll need to buy a new one. My sister’s machine broke once and her husband fixed it (not a mechanic or an engineer..!).

    Delaine–I HATE sewing with Minky. I really do. It is slippery and stretchy and lame. I bet a serger would do better with it, although I haven’t tried since I got one.

    To whomever was asking about smocking: You can buy vintage smocking patterns on ebay that still have the stitching guide iron-ons. Iron the dots on the fabric and go at it! I have a pleater, which I would recommend, but I inherited it. They are pretty pricey.

  51. Milehimama wrote: “How does a sewing dummy take in pants? I can sew curtains and even an easy sew dress, but alterations are blowing my mind.”

    I recommend you put the pants on inside out (I know, weird) and then pinch the seams until they’re as tight as you want them and pin them like that. If you do it right side out the pinning is all wrong for actually sewing but if you do it inside out, then you can just take off the pants with their pins in them and sew your new seams as pinned.

    Does that make sense?

  52. Susan F. says:

    For Melanie who wants to learn to smock. Buy the book “How to do English Smocking” by Grace L. Knott. Grace has long since passed but the instructions in this book are simple and clear to understand. If you go to her webpage you can buy the supplies you need to get started.

    You can also buy the dots and get started with that if you don’t want to buy a pleater, or purchase pre-pleated garments, although they are pricey

  53. Dawn says:

    In response to red_swirl/ginevrz :

    The book that I got to help me with the mechanics of quilting was Your First Quilt Book (or it should be) by Carol Doak. She has a whole line of books and whatnot but this one was just what the doctor ordered for me. It explains the tools needed, terminology, and the how to of making quilts in an easy to understand format without dumbing it down.

    I hope this helps!

  54. Karen L says:

    For Betty, About machine quilting a large quilt: Recently I took a class from someone who demonstrated a way of quilting a large quilt. She breaks the top down into pieces, usually strips. This probably would not work on all patterns but maybe on a lot. You could break the quilt down into quarters if that would work better. Then she batts and backs the strips and quilts each one separately, making sure she leaves plenty of backing on each piece for later and making sure to leave a 1/4 inch or preferably more space of “unquilted” area on the edges. Then she sews just the top seam allowances together. Lastly cut the batts to fit the top so they butt together and cut the backing down to the right size for turning under and “hand sewing” them down on the back. Or you could use binding to cover the backing seams. Or you could sew them down by machine, carefully. Hope you can understand this. It makes for smaller quilt packages to fit under you machine. Good luck! Karen

  55. EmmyLizzy says:

    Sarah and Sarah –
    You can buy iron-on vinyl for waterproofing use at most crafting stores. Look for it in the same place as their interfacing.
    Here’s an example….—interfacing-irononvinyl.html

  56. Kristin says:

    I’m trying to make purse straps that you sew onto the outside of the bag, so the ends need to be finished. I tried making the type that is shaped at the end (does that make sense?). Maybe I was trying to make too small a strap or maybe it was my choice of material (corduroy), but I had a terrible time and my purse is still sitting there waiting to be finished. Is there an easier way?
    Thanks. I’ve been loving reading the other comments. I’ve already had some of my questions answered!

  57. Sharon Gollman says:

    Amy, for cutting out fabric, I bought a large cardboard mat (not the kind you use a rotary cutter with) that has the grids printed on it. I put it on my kitchen table, and it extends the size somewhat. It folds up, so when I’m not using it, I can store it. You can find these at fabric stores. I don’t know if that will help you or not. Also, you if you had the space, you could purchase a large, rectangular card table, and fold it up when you are done and store it under the bed maybe? They are a pain to fold up though.

  58. Beth says:

    Milehimama– Kristin did a great alteration guide for modifying children’s pants that might be helpful. Here’s the link:

    Carrie– Jennifer from Moving Hands did a nice resource article on hand-piecing for our Quilting Month. Here’s the link:

    For all of the bias tape & binding questions– We do have some really good binding links in our Binding & Quilting Resource Links from Quilting Month:

    Renee– Anna Maria Horner has a great circle technique on her blog:

  59. Sara says:

    Jessica C … I just wanted to echo Juliette’s comment. I have found that the best way to make time for sewing in my busy life is to just block out a specific time for it. I am always happiest when I am in my studio being creative, but sometimes life just gets in the way, and it can be difficult to find the time! About a year and a half ago, my sister in law and I had a great idea … we started “sewing circle” night at my house every Tuesday. So, she and her mother come over as well as some other sewing friends. We spend the evening working on whatever project we want. It has been fun to see how productive each of us has been during this time … I have finished more quilts and other projects than I ever thought I could … just from setting aside time each week to devote to sewing. And, I’m a much happier person in general, because I am making the time to do what I love!

  60. Pam says:

    I am trying to make this certain tie. I can’t find anything like it & was wondering if anyone can give me some hints. Here is the link to the picture & I also posted the picture. I have no idea if it will come through or if it’s allowed. Thanks.

  61. renee says:

    I really to learn how to do circles and make them round instead of bunched up and very imperfect circles. (like applique, not rough edged). Can you help with that?

  62. Betty says:

    My question is what tips or tricks are there for machine quilting your quilts on a traditional (not long arm, etc) sewing machine. I love loopy quilting lines on quilts, but am only able to do straights lines or slightly curvy ones since the quilt barely fits underneath my sewing machine. Also, when I quilt anything bigger than twin sized it becomes nearly impossible to quilt on my own.

  63. Sarah says:

    Is there a good tutorial anywhere for making bias tape? The part I am missing is the best way to cut the fabric into the strips, starting from fabric off the bolt (44″ wide).

    Also, I’d like to know about the fabric waterproofing products that the other Sarah asked about 🙂

  64. Wendy says:

    red_swirl/ginevrz: I’m a self taught quilter and one of my favorite books is All About Quilting from A to Z by the publishers of Quilter’s Magazine. It’s got info about choosing color, fabrics, batting, tools, etc. And in the back a literal A to Z showing different piecing methods, hand vs. machine piecing, time saving techniques, triangles, binding… you name it. With lots of pictures, too. If you are in to machine quilting (vs. finishing by hand) also check out Easy Machine Quilting by Townswick. Those are the two books I go back to again and again.

    Carrie, re: paper piecing. Check out the paper piecing instructions on Quilter’s Cache here:
    There is also a paper pieced skewed log cabin design in Easy Machine Quilting (mentioned above) that has some great tips.

  65. Deborah says:

    I’m new to quilting also. I had never ever EVER sewn anything until two years ago (my first granddaughter was born). I had a friend that quilted, so I asked her about showing me how to make a baby quilt for my granddaughter, Lacey. My friend laughed and said I didn’t know what I was asking, because I was going to get addicted. Was she ever right! I’m still learning the basics, and since I work full-time, finding the opportunity to quilt is present problems. Retirement is looking pretty good. How wonderful it would be to have 100% of my time available. Anyway, I digress. Here is where I found some wonderful help for bindings. View this video and I think you’ll find it immensely helpful. (Hopefully I can put that URL in here – as you can tell, I don’t have a blog, and I read the note about no spam, so hopefully this video isn’t considered spam).

    Now, my problem is colors. I can’t seem to get my head screwed on straight to figure out what colors look best together, how the colors intensify, etc. I’ve bought color wheels, I’ve read and read and read, but I’m thinking this is going to be my huge hurdle.

  66. Water Works says:

    Jessica C. about find time to sew…
    I feel like I’ve completely given up tv and I don’t miss it. There are a few shows I make sure I sit to watch, usually with hand sewing going on. My secret is to just accept that you can’t do long stretches of sewing. I will wander through my sewing area (part of our office/storage room and near the kids’ rooms) while waiting for kids to dress in the morning, brush teeth just before bed, or generally anytime I have lag time. I get some pinning done, then later pass by to sew the seam. I take maybe three days to get something cut out and marked because I do it in 10 minute increments. It’s slower, but it works without upsetting the family flow. And this method allows me to fully think out the next step and forces me to walk away when something is frustrating.

  67. Sarah says:

    Does anyone know of any product for laminating fabric (a la Orla Kiley bags or oilcloth)? I’d love to be able to waterproof fabric for making bags or bibs, but haven’t figured out how.

  68. Juliette says:

    Jessica C. — I decided to make time for sewing the way I make time for all the other stuff in life. So, Monday night is “No TV Night.” There’s nothing good on anyway, certifing sewing as a higher and better use of my time. I also don’t wait until it’s too late to start sewing — if I get bunkered down at home after work, absolutely nothing gets done on any front. So, a quick meal and away I sew. As for the housecleaning, I let a lot of it slip (though I still meet OSHA standards, I’m sure) because again, I think sewing is sometimes the highest and best use of my time. Amazingly, the satisfaction at having finished even a small project energizes me to catch up on all the stuff I missed. ~Juliette

  69. Karmela says:

    It will take me a while to whittle down my questions, but I do have two helpful ideas for Sharon and Melanie. Sharon, I have run into the same problem with binding, so I take an extra step to keep things straight. I don’t know if this is the easiest way to do it, but I do a machine basting edge stitch with the bottom facing up so I can make sure to catch the binding. Then I flip it over and do the final stitch using the basting as my guide. I just pull out the basting threads when I’m done.

    Melanie, I haven’t done it yet, but I did see that Clover has smocking guides. They are basically stickers you stick on your fabric that guide your stitches. They illustrate where to stitch, how and in what order. It seems like it would keep your smocking consistent. I have seen them online, and there are several smocking patterns available.

    Hope these are helpful, and I’ll be back with my own questions later.

  70. Kirsten says:


    When I lived in a studio apartment, I took some plywood and stuck it on top of my double bed to make a big table for myself. It was a little unwieldy getting it manuevered into place, but it gave me a large cutting surface. The only problem was, is that it was a still a little low for me, since I am 5’9″ You may have better luck if you are shorter.

  71. Elizabeth says:

    My suggestion for bias binding is to put it on almost the same way you would quilt binding, i.e. iron one fold flat and stitch that edge in place first before folding the entire thing over and stitching through both layers (rather than slipstiching the back as you would with a quilt binding). The “trick” is to make sure that the binding on the back (or whichever side is going to be on the bottom while you’re stitching) is about 1/8″ wider than the front. That way you’re sure to catch it with your stitches!

    Hopefully this makes some amount of sense!

  72. Jessica C says:

    charli- I recommend buying another one. I just upgraded to a newer machine and it’s soooo much nicer than my old one… I was amazed at the quality of my sewing and how it improved! Also, I am a lot less frustrated now! 🙂

    red_swirl- I’m not trying to be funny, but I’d really recommend Quilting for Dummies or The Complete idiot’s guide to Quilting. All of your questions will be answered with diagrams and lots of helpful tips. I have checked both out from the library and they helped me out a lot!

    Amy– I have the same problems with cutting and not enough space. Are you using a rotary cutter and mat? That has helped me and I’ve often gotten out our folding thanksgiving buffet table. 🙂

    And for my question: When do you make time for sewing? Between work, life, kids and homekeeping, when is there time? Do you sew while watching TV/or in leiu of TV at night? I’m feeling like I’m finding less and less time to sew these days!

  73. Delaina says:

    Am I the only one who has issues sewing with minky? No matter how much I pin, it still pulls and stretches and frustrates me. any suggestions? Thanks and have a great day!

  74. Sharon Gollman says:

    There was a thread here on Sew Mama during quilt month on which quilting books people liked best. The results were tallied. If you look around you will find it. I am a beginner quilter too and find that the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting is the best resource I have found so far. It is a fat book and every step is explained in detail with a photo to illustrate it.

    Sometimes you can take smocking classes at shops where they sell the supplies to smock. I live in a small town and was shocked to learn that there is a little shop that sells the patterns, fabric such as batiste, etc, ribbons, lace, and so on. This lady also gives lessons. Check out your sewing machine shops, fabric shops, etc., and ask around. I also read somewhere but forgot where, that you can buy sticky tape and attach it directly to the fabric and smock that way. Way back when my daughters were little, you could find a few children’s dress patterns that had iron on transfers for smocking. I made some of those with no knowledge of how to smock. Try Vogue Patterns, they might have some. You might want to get your feet wet with trying French Sewing first–there are magazines books out on that. Do a search on the internet for Heirloom sewing. Hope this helps!

  75. Ashley H. says:

    I need some tips on finishing seams without a serger. Right now I zig zag over the edges, but it still looks sloppy. What are my alternatives?

  76. Carrie says:

    I am a beginner quilter (this is my first) and I am working on a “Bug Jar” quilt. I am to the point now where I have to do paper piecing and have no clue how!! Can you give me some suggestions or places that have demonstration videos. Thank you and I love your blog!!

  77. Melanie Williams says:

    I’ve always wanted to learn to smock but never can find classes! Any suggestions?

  78. Milehimama says:

    How does a sewing dummy take in pants? I can sew curtains and even an easy sew dress, but alterations are blowing my mind.

  79. Amy says:

    I have a tiny apartment and a small kitchen table where I do all my sewing. I’m wondering how people cut their fabric – especially when they have a lot. It never fits on my table so I end up on the floor and with leg and back pains. I’m sure there’s some kind of fancy contraption I could buy to help out.

  80. Amanda says:

    When I was a my grandmas house yesterday baby sitting, I found an old Singer Lockstitch Sewing Machine made in 1990 for children. Does anyone have any information on this sewing machine? Does it work well? Your answers would be much appreciated! 😀 In the meanwhile, I will look online to see if I can find any information!

  81. Hello everyone!
    What book would you recommend for someone who wants to start quilting? I’m not looking for block designs / inspiration / colour theory. I can dream up how I want the quilt to look all on my own. I’m after sort of a reference book of quilting techniques, step by step how to sew the quilt together, both handsewing techniques and machine sewing / outsourcing. Also is there something odd about seam allowances and triangles? What is piecing, is it like sewing all the bits together to form blocks? Binding is just edging with bias binding isn’t it? … a book to answer those sorts of questions.


  82. charli says:

    My sewing machine broke a few months ago and I miss it so. Repairing it will cost me nearly what the machine itself did! Has anyone had their husbands or anyone mechanically inclined fix your machines successfully? My husband is very mechanically inclined (works in the automotive industry) but I still worry about having him tear it apart… any advice?

  83. Sharon Gollman says:

    I would like to know if there are any tricks to sewing on bias tape (or your own that you cut from fabric, which is even more tricky, I think) so that you can catch both sides at the same time. I always end up missing some of the tape on the bottom side, then have to rip and resew. I want to make some of those pretty aprons that have bias trim but dread having to sew on the bias tape.

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