Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Flannel Pillow Cases

I picked up about 2 yards of this awesome black and white flannel at SR Harris and knew I wanted to make pillowcases out of it. Pretty easy. I measured the existing pillowcases I had, then kind of copied them in the new fabric. I serged all of the seams and did a topstitched hem.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fabric Glue Stick For Basting Fleece

I read this in Making Trousers for Men and Women some time ago:

"Whenever I mention glue in a sewing workshop or class, everybody laughs, as if I’m cheating or something. Apparently, the word hasn’t yet gotten out: Adhesives are a sewer’s best friend! They’re the tiny fingers you don’t have and the invisible pins that don’t ever need to come out. Admittedly, I’m quite restrained here. I use only a water-soluble glue stick and, recently, a neat ultra-fine fusible basting tape —so far, no spray adhesives or glue guns—but, really, you have to try these things!

Three quick glue-stick tips: Don’t use more than you need, which is usually very little...Don’t use the glue if it’s dried out and shrunken in the tube. (You can often resuscitate a shriveled glue stick by spraying some water into the tube cover, snapping it on tight, and letting it sit overnight—but this stuff is cheap, so get a new tube now and again.)"

On the strength of that recommendation, I bought one, and haven't used it until I was thinking about how to baste the hems for more pussyhats. I thought, why not? If I waste one hat, I'll have at least learned something. 

I'm happy to report that the glue stick worked really well on fleece! I had no trouble with my hems wandering around on me. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Pussyhats From Shorter Pieces of Fleece

I'm basing these projects on this version of the fleece pussyhat. I was really happy with my results, but since I bought a yard (36 inches) of fabric, and the pieces for the hats are designed to be 20 inches long, that left me with a weird strip of leftover fabric, about 60 inches wide and 15 inches long. I always seem to lose at least an inch of fabric to the piece not being completely square, or because I sometimes cut too deep as I'm cutting, and I'm ok with that.

But I'm not really ok with that much waste. Anti-pill fleece isn't expensive, but it is 100% polyester, which doesn't biodegrade, and while it's not like I'm composting my cotton scraps, it bothers me a bit whenever I waste anything, but especially a synthetic fabric. 

I thought I'd try making a version of the hat with a cuff. I tried one where I only cut 11" pieces for the main part of the hat, and it came out really small, so I'm going to go ahead and suggest that 12" might be better. Test for yourself. The original pattern doesn't specify a seam allowance, so maybe she was working at a quarter inch, while I prefer a half inch, and that would make her finished hat an inch larger around than mine, which is quite a difference when it comes to hats. 

There's another reason to check your sizing before you cut out as many of these as possible - the cuffed edge seems to make the hat fit a little more snugly than the turned-and-stitched hem. That could be because of something I'm doing wrong, or it could be inherently less stretchy. I'm not sure. There are two lines of stitching instead of one, and maybe that is enough to make a difference.

This is how I did it. Cut one piece of fleece that is 12 inches wide and 15 inches long. This is the main hat. Cut another piece of fleece that is 23 inches wide and 4 inches long. This is for the cuff.

Once you have your sizing figured out, you can cut several hats at once from your theoretical scrap above: cut one piece that is 23 inches wide and then cut three 4-inch-long pieces from that. That leaves you with a piece that can be cut into 3 pieces for the main parts of hats. If your fleece turns out to be 59 inches wide when you trim the selvedges, you can always cheat a little bit and cut the main hats at, say, 11 and a half inches, then work with a smaller seam allowance. Or make two hats that are the size you want and a third that's a bit smaller, that may fit a child. You'll have to adjust the seam allowance for the cuff on the smaller hat, so that it will still fit nicely together.

Sew the side seams of the hats and sew the ends of the cuffs together so that they form a circle. Fold the cuffs, wrong sides together.


Pin or clip the cuffs to the hats, right sides together, lining up all raw edges with each other. Stitch with a half-inch seam. This makes for a really bulky seam, with three layers of fleece together, so go slowly and consider using a walking foot, if you have one. I don't have a free arm on my sewing machine, so I like to stitch anything to do with the hem or cuff from the inside of the work, as in this example and this one. You can serge this edge, too, but I would baste it on the sewing machine first, because it's so much bulk.

Flip the cuff down and look at which two seam allowances will be covered by the third one when the hat is worn. Trim the two that will be covered, to reduce bulk at the seam. Topstitch the cuff in place, using a stitch that stretches, like a zigzag or a three-step zigzag, if you feel fancy. Finish the "ears" of the hat by topstitching with a straight stitch.

To be honest, I like this method of construction more for two reasons - it uses up smaller bits of fabric and it's easier to make the bottom edge look really good. I struggled a bit with keeping the hem even on my other hats. I did my best, but I can see that they're not perfectly level. It's much easier to do this way, in my opinion. I know that some people use spray adhesive to stick their fleece hems in place before stitching, but I don't have any! Maybe someday, I'll try it.

I know I'm repeating myself, but when you are finished, clean your machine, even if you don't usually clean up after every project. Fleece tends to shed a bit and it can gum up your machine worse than most other fabrics.

More ideas for fleece scraps:

- piece them together and make a pet bed. Even if you don't have a pet, most shelters will accept beds/ blankets for their animals. Check with your local shelter before you sew!

- cut them into smaller strips/pieces and use them to stuff everything from pet beds to dolls.

- find a pattern that doesn't take a lot of yardage. Mittens and hats, especially for kids, are often really low-yardage. Again, just because you don't have a kid doesn't mean you can't sew for them. Check with a local charity to see what's needed.

- stuff them into a bag and feel guilty. This is my most common response to scraps, but it's not very fulfilling.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Making A Bunch of Pink Hats! + Tips for Working With Fleece

After the Women's March on Washington, my mama asked me to make her a pink hat, aka a pussyhat. * 

I'd already given away the extras I made before the march, so I needed to go buy some fleece. 

The waste I had left over the first time bothered me a bit. Each hat needs a strip that is 20 inches long and between 11 and 13 inches wide (I have a big noggin and I like to wear my hair in a bun, so, yes, my hat is 13 inches wide, when I cut it). 

If you take that out of 1 yard of fleece, you're left with weird scraps that are less than 16 inches long. Not good for a lot, although I may try piecing some scraps together into yardage.

So, I bought 1 and a quarter yards and cut it up like this: one strip that's 13 inches wide, 2 strips that are 12 inches wide and 2 strips that are 11 inches wide. Give or take. Fleece is bouncy, so cutting it is like corralling a wild animal that is made out of marshmallows. Checking the math: 13 + 24 + 22 is 59, so once you cut the selvedge off a piece of sold-as-60-inches fleece, you should have just enough. 

If the world were perfect, I would only need a piece of fabric 40 inches long to do this, but let's face it - I'm not perfect at cutting and neither are the ladies at the fabric store. So, that extra 5 inches is a little insurance for all of us, for shrinkage in the wash, and to give me something to test my machine with. 

So, I laid it all out, folded in half, and marked 6.5 inches in, 12 inches from that, and 11 inches from that, with chalk. 

This left me with 5 big strips that I then squared off and chopped into 20-inch-long pieces. I then folded them, right sides together, and stacked them to take upstairs and sew.

Folded in half. Ten pussyhats ready to sew!

Bonus Tips:

- When you're sewing a bunch of ears on hats, it can slow you down to mark where the ears should start and stop. Cut a post-it (or even just regular paper) into the size you want and use it as a template.

From the book, Wild and Wonderful Fleece Animals - "Fleece doesn’t ravel, so you don’t need any seam finishing. This fact alone makes fleece an easy and quick fabric to sew! Never press the seams with an iron, it could melt the fibers. Instead, finger-press the fabric to open the seams. You can also place a seam under a wooden block—or a heavy book, such as a dictionary—to smooth it and help it lie flat."

When you are finished, clean your machine, even if you don't usually clean up after every project. Fleece tends to shed a bit and it can gum up your machine worse than most other fabrics.

*She might not wear it now that she knows that, but I'm going to make her one, anyway.