Friday, August 31, 2012

September is National Sewing Month!

Tomorrow is the beginning of September, which is...

for tomorrow we will lay out the list of all the exciting things we have planned!  

We cannot wait for you to see what we have in store for you for our favorite month of the year!

And remember to check back every day, Monday thru Friday as we will be blogging and posting new stuff each day!

Monday, August 27, 2012

BOO-tiful Trick or Treat Bags!

DIY Trick or Treat Bags:

How to make custom machine appliquéd felt tote bags. 

Create and customize a trick or treat tote bag using felt and one of three free downloadable appliqué designs from Sew Beautiful magazine.

By Joy Welsh and Nicki Hill

Appliqué Designs are available as a free download from Sew Beautiful's Web Extras page or from Applique for Kids.  Refer to download for specific appliqué materials and supplies.

These instructions support the article “Boo Bags” from the article published in the September/October 2012 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine, Issue #144. Instructions for Appliqué are included in the issue. We teach you to construct the tote bags in this blog post!

Materials For Tote Bags
• 2 sheets of bamboo felt or wool felt in color of choice (available at Martha Pullen Co.'s online store)
• 1 sheet of black wool felt
• Colored felt according to free appliqué download design
• Rayon machine embroidery thread for appliqué and lettering as called for by design
• Tear-Away Stabilizer as called for in appliqué instructions in issue #144


Cut out with regular scissors first, then trim seams with pinking shears for a zigzag edge.

•  Cut two sheets of felt 12 inches W x 11 inches H for front and back.
•  Cut two 11 inch x 4 inch strips from contrast colored felt for sides.
•  Cut one 12 inch x 4 inch strips from contrast colored felt for bottom.


1. Follow appliqué instructions to complete machine embroidery and appliqué design on one piece of felt (reserve remaining piece for back of tote, or embroidery another appliqué design on back as well).

2. Stitch front and back pieces to bottom 4-inch contrast felt strip with wrong sides together so that seams are on the outside of the bag. Start and stop 1/2 inch from ends and back tack at each end. Trim seams with pinking shears.
3. Place one side strip to front edge of back and sew from top to bottom stopping 1/2 inch from edge (meet end of bottom seam to form a corner and backstitch). 

Repeat to join other sides of side strip to back of back. Trim both seams with pinking shears.

4. Pinch bottom edges of side and bottom strip pieces together and stitch from corner to corner and backstitch at each end. Trim seam with pinking shears.

5. Repeat these steps to apply remaining side strip.

6. Top edge of bag remains straight, but could be cut with pinking shears if you wish.

7. Make handles from ribbon, braided trims, felt or anything sturdy and stitch ends of handles to inside of both front and back approximately 4 to 5 inches apart centered.

8. Glue decorations such as rickrack, ribbon fringe, trim and buttons to bag as desired.


Check out more fun appliqué designs for all seasons from Applique for Kids.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Blogger: Janet Gilbert

Today's guest blogger is Janet Gilbert!  She is an active member of Smocking Arts Guild of America (SAGA), and lives on a farm in southern Illinois.  Janet and her husband have two adult sons and a 12 year-old daughter.  Janet's daughter and new granddaughter are the inspiration behind her smocking designs and creative endeavors.  We have worked with her are numerous occasions and love her projects--as we know you will too!

Buttonhole Elastic

Hello Everyone! I am Janet Gilbert and today I have the privilege of being a guest Blogger for Sew Beautiful Magazine.

For years you have seen my designs in Sew Beautiful, but what you haven’t seen is the inside story…how I try to make the garments adjustable with buttonhole elastic.

Because children seem to grow overnight, I am never sure the exact size of the child modeling my designs and my granddaughter lives several states away; I always try to use buttonhole elastic.

Buttonhole elastic, you say? Here is a picture of this ingenious invention if you have never heard of this stuff.  You may have seen it on ready-to-wear children’s clothes.   Each buttonhole is 1 inch apart from center to center. You can go up or down a size just by loosening up or tightening the elastic.  This would be wonderful during the holidays!

Buttonhole elastic mainly comes in black and white and is usually available in ¾ inch and 1 inch widths.  If you can’t find it at your local sewing place, try doing a Google search on the Internet for online stores.

The uses for buttonhole elastic are almost unlimited but I will try to narrow it down to three types of application.

Gathered back waist

This is the most basic application.  Buttonhole elastic can be used in place of the elastic in a skirt and it could also be used in a fitted waistband to give you some options on the fit.

Look at the pattern you have chosen to use.  Does it have a two-piece waistband with side seams? Or is the waistband one solid piece?

If you have side seams then you will make some slight modifications to leave the side seam open.

If you have a solid (one piece) waist band then you will need to add button holes in the waistband to feed the elastic through.

Here are the basic instructions to modify a two-piece waistband so you can use buttonhole elastic. Your actual pattern may be slightly different.
  •  ·      I am going to start out with a waistband that is 3 inches wide. The waistband will be folded in half with ½ inch seam allowances.  This will give me a finished waistband that is 1 inch wide.
  • ·      With a 1-inch waistband I am going to use ¾ in Buttonhole Elastic. This will give me room to stitch a 1/8” top stitch.
  • ·      On my side seams I marked the waistband fold line by just finger pressing the fabric.
  • ·      After pining the fabric together I am going to mark the width of my elastic on the inside seam line.
  • ·      Remember to double check that the other side seam opening is also on the inside. (Been there.  Done that.  Won’t do it again!)

This picture shows how I stitch the side seam. I used contrasting thread for illustrations:
  • ·      I have my sewing machine stitch length at a regular stitch length. On my Bernina my preference is a length of 2. I am stitching a ½ inch seam allowance.
  • ·      I stitch about two stitches and reduce my stitch length to 0 and take two stitches in place. This locks the beginning of my seam stitches.
  • ·      I return to my regular stitch length and continue stitching to the first marked line for my elastic.
  • ·      I again reduce my stitch length to 0 and take 2-3 stitches in place.
  • ·      Since later on I am going to be opening up this seam at this point, I increase my stitch length to a basting stitch length. For me this is a length of 4-5.
  • ·      When I get to the second line that I marked, I again reduce the stitch length down to 0 and take 2-3 stitches in place.
  • ·      I return to a stitch length of 2 and stitch to the end where I finish off with two stitches at a 0 stitch length.

Next, I press my side seams open. Do not open up the seam for the elastic yet.

Since I am going to have elastic moving back and forth through this side seam opening, I want to secure the seam allowance down so it does not interfere.

There are several ways to do this. I chose to use the bound buttonhole stitch on my Bernina.  

The stitch looks like this.

I selected the “Manual” option on my sewing machine so I could stop and start where I wanted. With the right side of the fabric up and a buttonhole foot, I stitch my bound buttonhole.

Here is an illustration of what I did. The red dash line is the bound buttonhole.

Here is a close up of the actual bound buttonhole. Again, this was stitched with contrasting thread for illustration purpose.

Sewing the button on is the same, as you would normally sew a button on. You will have the thickness of the elastic underneath the button so you need to create a thread shank.  

Also, the size of the button required is not set in stone. The buttonholes on the elastic look very small but as you pull on the elastic the buttonhole stretches. The Hillcreek Button shown is a 3/8” button.

For the elastic back waistband, you will have one piece of buttonhole elastic that will button on each side. When you are cutting your buttonhole elastic to thread through the waistband make sure the sequence of the buttonholes are the same.

Confused? Here are two pictures that might help.

This is the Wrong way. The two ends of the elastic do not match up.

This is the correct way.  Both ends of the elastic are identical.

I finish the ends of the elastic with ribbon or trim. Instead of repeating myself on this step, let me direct you to a recent blog post I did on my blog:

Full gathered waist

This is one of my favorite applications for buttonhole elastic! 

In this picture are the pants that go with my “Super Hero” smocking design shown in SB issue # 132 (Issue available for purchase here).  Pants pattern is SB Jack and Jill overall with the bib removed, available here

Can you see the Buttonhole elastic?

Look again!  I left the back seam open on the inside. I sewed one ½” button in the middle with a thread shank then threaded the elastic through.  Each side of the elastic is buttoned to the same button and the ends are threaded back into the waistband.

I applied a seam sealant like Fray Check to the ends of elastic. I did not want the bulk of the ribbon or trim on the elastic ends since I was threading the ends of the elastic back into the waistband.

Side tabs

This is the application that Sivje Parish and I used on the Free Skirt pattern in the current issue of Sew Beautiful issue #144, available now.
The pattern in the centerfold has a zipper in the back and 2 side elastic tabs in the flat waistband. Instructions on how we added the Buttonhole elastic can be found on page 65 and 66 of the issue.

So, have I peeked your imagination on using buttonhole elastic?  The ideas are almost unlimited.  Think about how wonderful this would work in all those children’s costumes at Halloween or even in your Church’s Christmas pageant.

After adjusting the hems every year of our Church’s Angel costumes I have wondered about using it down the length of the dress and ruching up the skirts to adjust the length. (Sort of like Belle’s dress in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Blog: Michie' Mooney

We are happy to have a guest blogger today, Michie' Mooney!  Most of you will recognize her from our Sew Beautiful magazine, as she has a column each issue entitled "Just for the Boys."  In our latest issue, #144, she gives a smocking lesson featuring a favorite Halloween treat, candy corn!  You can always find Michie' either on her site, Creations by Michie', or see what she's making on her blog

Shoulder Close Bishop

By Michie' Mooney

How exciting to a see a version of the "Candy Corn Bishop" that I made last fall for my granddaughter appear in the newest issue of Sew Beautiful Magazine!  I love the bishop style on the little ones and the beginner level picture smocking makes this a quick project as far as smocking goes.  The magazine also includes the graph for the "Candy Corn" and 3 of my favorite tips for Picture Smocking.

Here is pretty and easy technique that is great when you prefer not to have the opening down the center back of the dress. Basically, the back of the dress is cut on the fold and the placket is sewn in where the left sleeve and back of the dress join.

To print these instructions on a full page, click here.

To see Michie's original post, go visit her blog here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Basic math is all you need to create this easy elastic waist pleated school skirt featured in 

Sew Beautiful magazine Issue 144, Sept/Oct 2012.

"No Pattern" School Girl Skirt Instructions

Pleated Math Skirt
By Sivje Parish

Materials Shown
• 8 yards of black spaghetti bias trim
• 1-inch elastic for waistband (size of waist)
• Small scrap of 2-inch ribbon (for joining the elastic)
• Red thread for skirt construction
• Black thread for trim
• Twin needles size (3,0-90) from trim


1. Measure waist (W).  Sample is 24 inches
2. Determine skirt yoke - Multiply waist measurement by 1-1/2 inches.
          (Yoke = W x 1-1/2) i.e.  (24 x 1½= 36inches)
3. Determine desired skirt length from waist (L). Sample length is 15 inches.
4. Divide length by 3. This will determine the desired finished length of yoke
          (L ÷ 3) i.e. (15 ÷ 3 = 5 inches)
5. Add 2 inches to this length for seam allowances and casing.
          (5 + 2 = 7 inches)
6. Pleated skirt is 2/3 of finished length.
          (L x 2/3) i.e (15 x 2/3= 10 inches)
7. Add 2 inches in length for hem and seam allowances.
          (10 + 2 = 12 inches)
8. Width of pleated skirt (front and back) is two 44-inch widths of fabric.
9. Cut out skirt pieces using determined measurements.

Yoke (top tier)
1. Sew ends of yoke strip together to form a tube. Finish seams and press open.
2. Fold top waist edge down, 1/4 inch and again 1-1/4 inch and press. Stitch along edge of fold to create a casing for elastic leaving an opening at seam (center back) for inserting elastic.
3. Mark center front on opposite side of seam along raw bottom edge (make a small clip into seam allowance). Match CF fold to CB seam and clip sides to mark quarter points.

Pleated Skirt
1. Sew skirt front and back along one side seam if embellishing with bias trim. Sew both seams if you are not embellishing (If you plan to embellish skirt with trim, it will be easier to do this while it is still flat).  Finish seams. Press seams toward back
2. Fold up hem 1/4 inch, and again 1-1/4 inches and press. Stitch hem in place by hand.
3. With side seams together, fold skirt and make a tiny clip in top seam allowance at folds. These mark front center and back center.
4. Trace trim design (template is provided on the free pullout centerfold of Sew Beautiful Issue 144) to the front and sides of lower skirt (design does not extend to back, but you can continue it all around skirt by shifting and tracing more of the design as desired). Use a white wash away pen to mark (markings will be covered by trim).
5. Glue baste spaghetti bias following template design. Use steam to manipulate and shape.
6. With right sides together, pin center front of yoke to center front of skirt. Pin center backs together, where yoke seam meets skirt. Pin skirt side seams at each of side clips of yoke.
7. Begin dividing space between pins by half and pin skirt to yoke. Continue doing this all the way around yoke circumference; each time dividing space in half until spaces between pins is 1-2 inches apart.
8. Once completely pinned and divided. Fold excess fabric between each pin to make a pleat. Pin each pleat in place going in same direction
9. Once all pleats folded and secured with pins, stitch all the way around yoke with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Stitch once more 1/4 inch from raw edge. Trim and zigzag raw edge. Press seam up. You may top stitch here or embellish seam with trim if you like.
10. Cut elastic and insert into waist casing using a safety pin. Adjust elastic and trim off excess. Cut a scrap of 2-inch ribbon about 2-inches long. Using a close zigzag stitch, butt cut edges and stitch pieces together. Lay scrap of ribbon behind elastic and wrap it around. Stitch ribbon in place, making a smooth cover for seam of elastic.
11. Stitch casing opening closed.

Dress up for a school dance or Holiday portrait, or style a casual look with a sweater and leggings with boots for an everyday outfit. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sew & Tell for a $25 gift card

September is National Sewing Month

We need your help!

Among a slew of other exciting giveaways, free projects, celebrity interviews and new book excerpts, we will be featuring our readers on our blog throughout the month of September.  
We are calling it:


Each week, we will have a theme.  All projects, articles, freebies & posts will be focused on the theme.  

Week 1: Martha Pullen Week 
  • Do you have something made from a Martha Pullen pattern, book or materials purchased at the MP Store?
Week 2: Nancy Zieman Week
  • Have you made a project from a Nancy Zieman book or pattern?
Week 3: Kay Whitt Week

  • Did you make a project from a Sew Serendipity book or pattern?
Week 4: Magazine Week

  • Show us what you have made from an issue of Stitch Craft Create, Sew Beautiful, or our new sister magazine from Interweave, Stitch.

Send us your work!  
If we use your project during Sewing Month, we'll reward you with a $25 gift certificate to use at Martha Pullen Company's online store!

Please send pictures of your project, along with some text explaining simply what you did, where the pattern came from, and why it is so special to you.  
If you have a blog, let us know and we can link back to you!

These can be emailed to:

Thanks in advance and stay tuned as we are planning so much to celebrate our favorite pastime in September!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Free Reverse Appliqué Onesie Tutorial

Simple surface appliqué is an easy and popular embellishment technique for clothing; but have you ever tried reverse appliqué? The general concept is the same as regular appliqué, except that the accent fabric is stitched to the garment from the backside. Then, the garment fabric is trimmed away in front to reveal the cute fabric print inside a stitched window.

Here, I used this technique to create a sweet birdie onesie, perfect for autumn. Because I wanted to soften the brightness of a white garment for a more natural, cozy look, I coffee-dyed it before appliquéing. The easy how-to for this process is included here following the instructions for reverse appliqué.


  1.  Use blue wash-away marking pen to trace bird design onto wrong side of cotton fabric print. Turn onesie inside out. Pin cotton fabric onto inside front of onesie, right side down, and making sure bird will be positioned where you want it on your finished onesie.
  2. Set up sewing machine with monofilament thread. Stitch fabric to onesie on traced lines of bird shape, backstitching to secure at beginning and ending point.
  3. Use scissors to trim away excess fabric around outside of stitching lines to about 1/4 inch.
  4. Turn onesie right side out. Cut a small hole in onesie fabric inside stitching lines, being careful to only cut through knit layer. Trim away onesie fabric from inside stitching lines, about 1/8 to 1/16 inch away from stitches. TIP: Extra-sharp, precision-tip scissors are especially helpful in this step.
  5. Machine wash and dry onesie; this will fray and curl raw, cut edges of onesie fabric.
  6. Using a blue wash-away marking pen and template provided, trace embroidery design onto onesie around bird design. Use DMC floss to backstitch over marked lines.
  7. Rinse away blue marked lines; let onesie dry, then press.

Fun Ideas to Switch it up!
  • Instead of monofilament thread, use thread in a coordinating or contrasting color.
  • Create your own appliqué templates using any shape you choose! Just keep in mind that simpler shapes are easiest to stitch around on the sewing machine.
  • Apply this same reverse appliqué technique to any garment, or use it in home décor such as on tea towels or pillows.

How to Dye with Coffee
Dying cotton fabric with coffee (or tea) is a simple and inexpensive way to give any item a natural, aged off-white hue. I chose to coffee-dye the baby onesie used in this project to soften the brightness of the white fabric, and love the results. Here’s how you do it!

  • White cotton baby onesie (or other item)
  • Coffee and coffee pot
  • Water
  • Tub or large casserole dish
  • Wooden spoon
  • Vinegar 
  • Pre-wash and dry baby onesie to remove any sizing or oils from fabric. This will ensure a more evenly dyed application.
  • Brew a strong pot of coffee. NOTE: Coffee can be either caffeinated or decaffeinated; the key is just to brew with a bit more grounds than usual.
  • Pour brewed coffee into tub or large casserole dish. Place onesie into dye bath. With a wooden spoon, push garment under surface and allow it to steep in coffee dye for 20 to 40 minutes, or until desired darkness is achieved.
  • Before removing onesie from dye bath, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar, stirring with wooden spoon. Allow onesie to steep in mixture for an additional 5 minutes; the vinegar will help set coffee dye into fabric.
  • Remove onesie from coffee-vinegar mixture. Rinse briefly under faucet until water runs clear. Dry onesie in dryer or by laying flat.
  • Continue with reverse appliqué as instructed. Any remaining coffee or vinegar odor should disappear once onesie is washed.

This tutorial was excerpted from the new Fall 2012 edition of Sew Beautiful's sister magazine, Stitch Craft Create, which can be found on newsstands and at starting next week!

Shannon Miller is the editor of Stitch Craft Create magazine. Having previously worked as art director for Sew Beautiful magazine and with a love of all things crafty and creative, she feels blessed to work in such an inspiring environment every day. She admits to having a problem with coffee, an exploding stash of fat quarters, a strong dislike for cleaning, an addiction to reading blogs and an overwhelming affection for naps. Shannon lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband Nathan and their one-year-old daughter Georgia Mae and newborn son Ryland.