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Create a Sewing Space: Your Little Corner of the World

Now that you have decided to take the plunge into the sewing world, you’ll want to have a small area set up for your sewing machine and supplies.

Not all of us have the luxury of a room all to ourselves, so becoming creative in finding ways to set up easily, and then store away conveniently can be very helpful when your sewing area is the dining room table.

I sewed at my table for many years, and developed a simple system to set up my machine and supplies quickly and easily. I cleaned out a closet that wasn’t being used, and purchased a Rubbermaid 3-drawer rolling cabinet. I placed all my sewing supplies in the cabinet, and placed my sewing machine on top.

This all fit neatly into a corner of the closet, along with my folding cutting board, and ironing board. When I was ready to sew, I simply rolled out my cabinet and set up on my dining room table. Since I had little ones at the time, I also installed a simple hook and eye latch at the top of my closet door that kept out curious hands.

If you can spare a room to set up for sewing, there is a great book on the market that covers this very topic. It is entitled, Dream Sewing Spaces, by Lynette Ranney Black and Pati Palmer. It touches on every possible combination for every type of sewing venture, from garment construction, to home decor, and quilting.

When I moved my portable sewing setup to its own room, I used this book as a resource to set up my sewing space. Being on a tight budget, I purchased 3 folding tables, and used one for sewing/serging, one for a general workspace and bookshelf, and the third for a cutting and pressing table.

I raised the workspace table as well as the cutting/pressing table to a more convenient height by cutting 4 appropriate lengths of 1″ PVC pipe per table, and sliding them over the ends of each of the table legs, raising the tables up to a height that was kinder to my back. I made simple tablecloths and covered the tables, draping the tablecloths to the floor, allowing for some hidden storage space under all three tables.

I purchased a few more plastic cabinets and some plastic storage bins, and slid them under my tables. I visited a used office furniture store and picked up a great rolling, ergonomic office chair for a song. My biggest investment besides my sewing machine, were two Ott Lights to improve my lighting situation. Although they are pricey, the investment has been well worth it, as the lighting is color-true, and allows me to match my colors accurately, as well as providing enough light to sew into the wee hours of the night.

Sewing Machine Review: Singer 221

The Singer 221 sewing machine is one of Singer’s older models and is no longer being manufactured by the company. Nevertheless, there are still owners who sell these Featherweight models to collectors. Just make sure that if you purchase one, it is still in good running condition as the model is already quite old. Despite Singer’s non-production of the 221 model, parts are still available in the market. There are still plenty of accessories even making it easy for you to maintain its components.

The Singer 221 is beautifully finished, non-crinkle machine and very simple to use making it a very valuable collector’s item. The standard version of the 221 model has a very shiny ebony black finished known as Japan with a scroll design. The face plate is chrome-plated giving it a polished look. It possesses a silver-colored hand wheel with its serial number embedded onto the body. The variant to the 221 model is the one with an AG serial number. The only difference is that you can buy one with black hand wheel instead of silver.

The 221 model is operated manually therefore adjustments on length and width of stitches are manually done, too. It does not have the modern LCD screen that allows you to see your patterns and change them. Threading and bobbin winding is also manually done. So if you have never used a manual machine before, this may appear to be a great challenge to you. But despite its manual operation, the featherweight Singer 221 sewing machine is known to be one of the best so far because of its incredible finish and superb stitching functions. The machine belongs to the featherweight Singer models because it is indeed very light in weight making it portable and easy to carry even during sewing classes or workshops and even while you travel.

The Singer 221 can last for decades as it is made of very durable materials. Like all other Singer-manufactured sewing machines, they are built to last a lifetime. Not only the machinery itself is made durable because of the materials used to sustain strain and constant use but its manual operational parts also last a long time. This allows the machine to function in its most efficient condition even after years of use. The Singer may already be considered a vintage machine and may be sold at a higher price during auctions or you may want to pass this on to your grandchildren as an heirloom. Its design and functionality surely makes the Singer 221 a treasure to be kept over the years.

Pfaff 1221 Sewing Machine Review

The Pfaff 1221 was one of the first sewing machines to hit the commercial market. It is very durable, and has a built-in needle threader. This is oftentimes given from one generation to another as an heirloom. Although it is hard to learn all of the functions of the Pfaff 1221, the model comes with a foot pedal and a bobbin case to control the speed of your sewing, not to mention a free-arm working space and a case where you can put your sewing accessories like spools, bobbins, scissors, and etc.

Here are some of the advantages of Pfaff 1221:

1. Durability

This machine is very durable and does not break or scratch easily. This machine will definitely last you a long time, maybe even generations after you.

2. Simplicity

This is one of the most basic machines, and is very easy to understand and use. There are not a lot of different controls and complicated features so you do not have to worry about getting confused.

3. Easy Threading

When trying to thread the Pfaff 1221, you will not have to try and try again, because it has a built-in needle threader. All you need to do is put the spool of thread into the machine and then the built-in needle threader will do the work for you.

4. Different Kinds of Feet

There are four kinds of feet that you can use when using the Pfaff 1221, these are the rolled hem foot, pintucking foot, blind hem foot, and the cording foot. This variety of feet will help you put the proper pressure to make your stitches properly and you will not have as many loose stitches.

5. Free Arm Sewing Surface

With this extra space, you can easily work on your projects with space to move around your cloth and has enough space for your elbows and legs.

6. Different Kinds of Fabrics

This sewing machine comes with a dual feed, so it can work on all kinds of fabrics from cotton to denim and everything in between.

Here are some of the disadvantages of Pfaff 1221:

1. Basic Machine

This is a very old model, and it may have been used by a lot of other people than you. You might find yourself looking through a lot of manuals before you can figure out how to use the machine.

2. Not Portable

This machine is very heavy and is solid so it is not something that you should carry around with you. Find a good table to set it on to use it.

If you want to check other models, then you can find more sewing machine reviews on SewingInsider. This will help you find your proper machine.

Necessary Supplies For A Successful Sewing Project

Aside from enthusiasm, a sewing machine and something to sew: you will need a few basic supplies. Some of the items listed below can be gradually acquired; others are necessary or simply handy to have. Make sewing easier by using the proper tools. This list can also be used for shopping ideas for the seamstress on your Christmas list. If for a present, look for the top of the line, or interestingly designed or personalized version.

Sewing Kit Staples

Sewing Basket. Look for a specially made sewing basket or choose a funky tool box. Whatever you choose be sure that it is large enough to hold your supplies. Even if your sewing machine is housed in a cabinet, having a free standing sewing basket can come in handy for carrying a project and all the necessary tools around with you.

Scissors. Do not skimp here. Choose a quality pair and declare them off limits to anything unrelated to sewing. Take care of them and they will last forever. Look for a knife-edged bent scissor and a small sewing scissor to round out your collection.

Sharp Needles. High-quality hand sewing needles are worth the money. Buy a variety pack and a storage carrier to
keep them handy.

Straight Pins. Look for a starter kit. You can choose from small steel pins that stick to a magnet. (Making clean-up a little easier) or pins with large colored plastic balls on the end that are easy to locate and pick up. If you are working with delicate fabric, you will need superfine needles with flat heads.

Thread. Thread will need to be purchased often, but having a basic starter set of versatile thread is a good idea. Choose cotton-wrapped polyester or 100 percent polyester in black, white, khaki and clear.

Tailor’s Chalk or a Dressmakers pencil. These make temporary marks on your fabric. Helpful when altering a pattern, hemming or tailoring a dress.

Pin Cushion. Choose from a huge variety of pin cushions from the classic tomato to a modern magnetic pin case. Many come with emery to sharpen and clean needles.

Measuring Tape. Buy a quality fabric measuring tape, but be prepared to replace it once it starts to show wear if you want an accurate measurement.

Seam Ripper. Mistakes happen, be prepared. Seam rippers work much better than fingers and teeth!

Sewing Gauge. This tool is great for measuring and marking pleats and buttonholes.

Hem Gauge. A useful addition to your tool chest: it is for measuring a hem.

Thimble. This is an optional addition to your sewing kit. When choosing one, know that it should fit snugly on your middle finger. It takes a bit of getting used to, but can save finger pricks and help in hand sewing.

Getting to Know Your Sewing Machine

The first step in sewing is getting to know your sewing machine. No matter what brand or style you own, they are generally the same in functionality. I still own my very first machine from 30 years ago, and prefer to use it when constructing simple things.

Your machine should have come with a handbook or instruction book for using the machine. If you have lost it, don’t panic. Many times you can contact the manufacturer and request a replacement.

Basic Sewing Machine Parts and Controls

Balance Wheel: each rotation forms one stitch; can be used to manually move needle up and down

Bobbin/Bobbin Case: case holds the bobbin and bobbin holds the lower thread

Feed Dogs: metal “teeth” that go up and down with a forward motion to move fabric through when sewing

Light Switch: is usually used in conjunction with power switch; light allows for better viewing in needle/feed area when stitching

Needle: moves up and down carrying thread through the fabric to form stitches

Needle Clamp: holds needle securely on machine

Needle (or Throat) Plate: a metal plate located on the machine under the Presser Foot with openings for feed dogs and the needle

Presser Foot: holds fabric in place when sewing

Presser Foot Lifter: raises and lowers the presser foot

Presser Foot Screw: allows for changing machine feet including zipper foot, buttonhole foot, cording foot and more

Reverse Lever: lever or button to reverse direction of sewing

Spool Pins: one or more vertical or horizontal rods designed to holds the spool(s) of thread

Stitch Length Regulator: determines the length of the stitches; suggest using 10 to 12 stitches per inch for general seams, 6 to 8 stitches per inch for machine basting

Stitch Width Regulator: determines width of stitch when using zigzag feature

Tension Control: a dial or disk that controls the tightness of the upper thread

Thread Guide: holds thread as it moves from thread spool to needle; total number varies between different machines

Thread Take-Up Lever: moves up and down with the needle, taking up thread slack with each stitch; should be left in highest position when sewing stops to prevent thread pull out

For any plain straight stitch, there are common functions in all machines. First, there is the “precisely timed movement of needle and shuttle hook to manipulate a top thread and a bottom (bobbin) thread” that actually creates the stitch.

There is also the interaction between the presser foot, needle, and feed dog to help guide the material through the machine. As you familiarize yourself with your machine, you will notice that you have controls available to adjust all of these movements including thread tension, stitch length and width.

Some machines also offer special features including zigzag and stretch stitches. Be sure to consult your handbook before making any adjustments.

4 Tips to Help You Buy Your First Sewing Machine

With all the options available to choose from, buying your first sewing machine can be quite confusing. For most people, all the bells and whistles are unnecessary and a best sewing machine for beginners can be found for less than $200. Here are a few tips on shopping for your first sewing machine.

  • #1: Do your research

Do plenty of research before buying your first sewing machine. The best place to start is usually a magazine like Consumer Reports or an online consumer review site. Look at the recommendations first to get an idea of what type of sewing machine you want, then you can check online consumer review sites to get opinions from actual users. Remember that people are more likely to post something if they are unhappy with a product, so take the online reviews with a grain of salt. One or two bad reviews may not be a cause for concern, but a trend of unfavorable reviews with few favorable ones to offset them could be a problem. Once you have decided which sewing machine to buy, check with your local repair shop to make sure they will be able to service your machine if it breaks.

  • #2: Skip the unnecessary bells and whistles

Do not be tempted to buy a sewing machine with all of the available features. Most people will never need the more advanced options offered by today’s sewing machines. Not only is it a waste of money, but it can also be confusing to have so many different features, especially if you are new to sewing. If you plan to make sewing a lifetime hobby, you may want to buy a basic model that will be expandable later if you decide you need a particular attachment.

  • #3: What price range to expect

A first sewing machine should not be too expensive, usually in the $100-200 range. The available features are the main difference within that price range. You want a sewing machine that can handle the routine tasks like attaching buttons or creating buttonholes. Most of the other features you will find in this price range involve special stitching patterns that may not be important until you learn more advanced sewing techniques.

  • #4: Where to shop

You can either buy your first sewing machine online or at a local store. Online stores or auction sites like eBay will often offer the best price, but you are not able to see the actual machine before purchasing. It is usually a good idea to browse at a local store to physically inspect the type of sewing machine you are interested in buying. Be sure it is the proper size for you and is comfortable to use. Once you are sure you have found the right first sewing machine, then you can return to the online sites to find the best price.

Mini Bucket Sewing Kit

Some people have the luxury of their own little sewing room but others stitch when and where they can. If you’re such a person you could probably use a small, carryall sewing kit that can go with you whenever – and wherever – you go. It doesn’t take a large organizer to store common sewing things, like needles, pins, tape measure and buttons. Use a mini bucket and you’ll have a place for everything and a way to take your sewing needs room to room or from your place to someone else’s.

Dollar stores often sell miniature buckets that have lots of different uses. About the size of a cereal bowl – but a little taller – the buckets are perfect for making sewing kits. Choose the size and color of bucket you want then do a couple of add-ons to make the bucket into a sewing kit.

Wrap a piece of felt around the outside of the bucket and glue it in place. Wrap a length of roping, ribbon or lace around the top and bottom edges of the bucket to hide the raw edges of the felt. The felt serves to decorate the bucket as well as provide a place to store pins and needles. Don’t cover the entire bucket with the felt; just cut a wide strip and glue it around the top area, on the outside.

Glue a couple of cardboard rings inside the bucket, a few inches down from the top, and position them side-by-side. The rings can be sections cut from a cardboard tube or can be small cardboard rings from a roll of tape. These can hold everything from scissors to marking pencils.

Make one type of holder for the inside of the bucket by cutting a section from a cardboard tube then gluing or taping a circle to the bottom. Glue these to the inside of the bucket to hold buttons, snaps and similar things. Or, glue small prescription bottles, without lids, to the inside of the bucket. These, also, can hold buttons and snaps, cloth tape measure, thimbles and more.

There are so many things you can do to provide even more storage space inside and outside of the bucket. Cut pockets from old garments and glue the sides and bottoms on the outside of the bucket. Or, glue small bottles or tiny boxes all the way around the outside of the bucket, around the bottom edge. These additional storage places can hold everything from appliques to scraps of fabric to zippers. It’s a handy way to keep your most common sewing supplies all in one place or take them along with you from room to room.

Beginner’s Sewing Project: Child’s Pillowcase Skirt

When you’re first learning to sew you can end up spending a lot of money without producing anything of quality. That’s because you haven’t figured everything out yet, and with mistakes, you can end up throwing away nearly everything you make. However, if you practice on some pieces that aren’t all that complicated, and you use fabrics and supplies that aren’t expensive, you don’t have to worry so much about ruining the item you’re creating. So, start by practicing your different stitches, tension settings and similar things on leftover scrap pieces or even an old sheet. After you’ve gotten a little confidence you can then move on to easy projects that will allow you even more practice without the high cost of mistakes. One such project is a simple skirt you make for a little girl. You won’t have to buy patterns or even make your own. All you need to do is go find a nice pillowcase and get started!

An ordinary pillowcase is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to learning how to sew. Since pillowcases come in a variety of colors, and already have a hem in the open end of the case, it’s perfect for practicing your new sewing skills while actually producing a quality garment. If you have a little girl she’ll love the finished skirt which is unique, will fit great, and is really easy for you to make. Although a plain pillowcase is fine for this project you’ll make a much more impressive skirt if you choose one that’s decorative around the open end. You can use a solid color, or a patterned cloth to add more interest, or you can later decorate the skirt in any number of ways.

No matter what type of pillowcase you’re using the open end of the case will become the hemline for the new skirt. Since the length of the skirt will be determined by you there is not standard measurement you can use to cut away the excess fabric. Measure the child from the waist to where you want the hemline to be. Add a couple of inches to this figure to allow for the waistband. Take the final number and use it to decide how much of the pillowcase to cut away. Cut the excess material from the opposite end of the pillowcase opening. Now the skirt is complete except for creating the waistband.

There is more than one way to create the desired waist of the skirt. One way is to use narrow elastic and sew it directly onto the cut edges of the pillowcase. Start on one side of the skirt and set the end of the elastic. As you sew the elastic around the waist tug on it a little to stretch it while you stitch. Quarter-inch elastic works great and you can choose whether or not you want to use a straight stitch or a zig-zag. Keep the elastic right next to the cut edge as you sew. When you get to the place where you started butt the two ends of the elastic together and stitch over the top of them. Back-tack to secure and trim away any excess thread. Now fold the elastic over once and stitch all the way around again, but this time, choose only the straight stitch.

To create the same waistline as above you have a second choice. Instead of sewing the elastic directly into the waistband you can thread it through instead. Start by folding the cut edge of the pillowcase over a half-inch. Now fold it over once again, but this time, an inch and a half. It can be helpful to use a warm iron to press both folds into place. Pin the folded fabric in place and remove the pins as you stitch along. Begin sewing by starting on one side of the pillowcase. Keep the stitches right next to the folded edge so that you are creating a long, narrow pocket that will hold the elastic. After sewing almost all the way around stop a couple of inches before you get to the place where you started.

Take a length of elastic and wrap it around the waist of the little girl. Cut the elastic to fit comfortably around her waist then fasten a safety pin to each end of it. Slide the first safety pin through the elastic encasement and attach the second pin to the fabric of the encasement. The first pin allows you to easily push the elastic piece through the narrow encasement. The second in guarantees you won’t accidentally pull the elastic all the way through. After you have threaded the elastic through the encasement remove both pins. Sew the two elastic ends together then sew the final couple of inches of encasement shut. The skirt is now complete.

Don’t want an elastic waistband? Sew two darts in the front of the skirt and space them evenly apart. Each dart should be placed evenly between the naval and the side. These darts will make the skirt smaller around the waist so that it tapers to fit. Make sure you measure and pin these; if you make darts that are too large the skirt will be too small for the girl. After you’ve sewn in the darts cut a long, wide piece of material to use as the waistband. The material can even be excess you cut from the original skirt. The piece you cut should be at least a couple of inches longer than the actual waistline of the skirt.

Take the long, wide piece of material and fold it in half with right sides together. Sew up one short side of the band, down the long side, then across the other short side. Turn the band right-side-out and pin it to the waistline of the skirt. Stitch around the band, keeping the top edge of the skirt trapped between the two open pieces of the band. When you get to the end there will be more band than there is waistline. The extra band allows you to create a button, snap or other closure. Simply create a button hole or sew on the other fastener. This skirt is a little more complicated to create than the ones that have the elastic around the waist.

If you’ve used an ordinary pillowcase you can use fabric paints to create colorful patterns or even fabric glue to attach fake jewels. Sewing is so much fun, but when you’re ruining outfit after outfit, it can make you want to quit! Practice on easier garments and you’ll soon be an ol’ pro. When it comes to choosing such a project you can’t beat the pillowcase skirt. It’s impossibly easy to cut out, a breeze to sew together, and will produce a cute skirt unlike any other! Your little girl will be proud to wear it!

Sewing Craft Ideas for the Month of September

September is sewing month for those of you that did not know September is a great month to sew. The weather is not always nice to be outside so it is a good time to enjoy this great hobby. You can sew many great items in September, but one item you can sew is a bath mitt made for children or adults to use when they are taking a bath. A bath mitt can make cleaning up fun for people of all ages to use when they are washing up.

To make a bath mitt you just need some tread and some terry cloth. You can use an old towel if you do not have any new terry cloth. Just take the terry cloth and cut it into a shape that you like. You can cut it into the shape of a cat, dog, horse or bird. Cut two of the shapes that are alike and sew them together. Remember to leave an openingyou’re your hand to go into the mitt. Then you can embroider eyes, nose and a mouth onto your terry cloth animal bath mitt. The bath mitt is ready to use. It can be washed like a towel since it is made of terry cloth.

Another great sewing project for the month of September is an oven mitt. Oven mitts are great to use for taking hot food out of the oven. When you make your own oven mitt you can make it any shape or size you want. You can start out with some quilted fabric. You can buy some quilted fabric or you can use an old quilt to make an oven mitt.

Cut your quilted material in to two shapes that mirror each other. You can make a dog, cat, star, heart, square, circle or any other shape you want. Sew the pieces together but leave an opening for your hand to go into the oven mitt. Then you can decorate your oven mitt with embroidery, buttons, ribbons or even lace to make your oven mitt pretty.

Oven mitts and bath mitts make great presents for birthdays, Christmas, or any other holiday. They are personal and you can make them in any shape or size you want. Make sure that the mitt you make will fit the hand of the person you are making the mitt for.

September is national sewing month so it is a great time to sew a project.