Sewing Classes and Lessons

Sunday, September 10, 2017

DIY Lavender Eye Pillows


I went to a yoga studio last week that ended the practice by having you lay down with a flax seed eye pillow scented with lavender.  It was so relaxing, I really had a hard time staying awake!  The yoga instructor said that the weight of the flax seed in the pillow stops your eyes from moving while your eyelids are closed, which helps to relax you.  Plus the fragrance of the lavender makes you breathe deeper, furthering the relaxation even more.  I thought, I really want one of these at home!  I went to Amazon to buy one, and the pretty ones were as high as $18 each.  So, I knew that I could whip one up quickly for a fraction of that price!


First, I mixed up my filling.  I used flax seed and real lavender buds that I had purchased from a lavender farm earlier this summer.  I used about 1/4 cup of lavender buds and 10 ounces of flax seed for one pillow. I just used some packaged flax seed that I had in my pantry from the grocery store. 

Next, I cut a 5" x 21" piece of fabric.   If you have a 42" wide fabric, you will have enough for two eye pillows.


Fold this in half along the short side and then double stitch the long edges in a 1/4" wide seam, leaving an opening at the short side.  I recommend double stitching because the flax seeds are tiny, and you don't want to risk them pouring out through a broken stitch!


Then you can turn this right side out, and press.  Press under the seam allowances on the open end.  


Take a funnel and pour in the flax seed/ lavender bud mix in the open end.


Carefully take the filled pillow to the sewing machine, and double stitch the end closed.  I say "carefully", as on my first one, I was not so careful, and now I have seeds all over my sewing table!


And that's it!  If you don't have lavender buds, you could use some lavender oil.  You can adjust the amount of lavender to your preference.  The fragrance is pretty strong with 1/4 cup, so 1/8 cup might be better.  I do anticipate that the fragrance will dissipate after a while though.  Next time I make these, I think I will use a muslin for the main pillow, and make a removable cover so that it can be washed, in case any mascara or eye make up rubs off on it. 


I think that these are going to make great gifts! It takes so little fabric, so you can splurge on some really pretty prints.  If someone is sensitive to fragrance, you could make it without the lavender, just the flax seed and it would still be quite relaxing.


Happy Sewing!

Ann

Monday, September 4, 2017

Starting a Sewing Club for Kids



Sharing my love for sewing is something that I am passionate about. For the last 5 years, I’ve organized an afterschool sewing club for 5th graders at a local elementary school. This has been so much fun and so rewarding that I thought I would share with you some of the things that I did to get it started, and some of the things that I’ve learned along the way.




Getting a club of any kind started in the schools requires both finding students that are interested and finding supportive people in the administration. Here are some tips for finding both of these things:

  • Pick a school that you think might be interested and call to speak with someone at that school in the administration, such as a principal or community involvement coordinator, to see if after-school clubs are possible. This may seem intimidating, but from my experience, school administrators are devoted to providing their students with enriching experiences, and will jump at the chance to expose their students to the art of sewing.
  • I chose to work with the 5th grade of an elementary school, but you could also do this with middle or high schools. I also decided that I would just do it in the second semester of the school year. I met with our principal, who was very excited by the idea and offered to support the club as much as possible. It is standard procedure in all schools to run background checks on anyone that would be working with students. So, don’t be offended if you are required to be fingerprinted, or asked for references.

  • Some kids may not be familiar with sewing, and haven’t ever even seen a sewing machine. Offer to demonstrate how to use a sewing machine in a general class, and talk about what kinds of things you can do with a sewing machine. I have done this by going into a classroom during the school day, and letting each student have a chance to sew two small pieces of fabric together. I’ve done this both with general classrooms and art classes. Then, I tell them that I will be leading an after-school sewing club and ask them to talk to their parents about it if they are interested.



  • Soon after the class demonstration, work with the administration/teachers to send home information about the sewing club to parents, along with a permission form. Include the day of the week you would like to hold meetings, and ask interested students to return a form with their name, and parents' phone numbers. I always ask if a parent or relative would be able to help during meetings, but this is not required for a student to be a member. This year, all of our members were girls, but in years past, I have usually had at least one boy join too!



  • Once you have the forms returned, you will know out how many members you will have. Now is the time to recruit volunteers to help you. You definitely do not want to do this alone! It’s more fun to have more adults. Ideally, you would have a ratio of 1 volunteer for 2-3 students, depending on the age of the student. So, if you have 6 kids interested, I would look for at least two volunteers to help you. I have advertised for volunteers by word of mouth, posting on volunteer boards, and asking at senior centers. Make sure that they know that they don’t need to be experts at sewing- just basic sewing experience will do. Amazingly, someone always steps forward to help. Again, they will have to fill out forms and have background checks- just standard procedure.
  • Next, you need to figure out what you are going to sew with, and where you will store it. I do not recommend using your own machines, nor transporting machines. My principal had a specific account for investments in school hardware for after-school programs, and she was able to purchase several inexpensive machines. She also provided me with a storage area and meeting room. Some schools may already have machines in storage from when home economics was taught. I believe that if you asked for donations, you could also find sewing machines easily. Just make sure that the machines are in working order, and light enough for students to carry. Some older models are just too heavy.


  • Figure out how you are going to get other supplies, such as fabrics, pins, scissors, rippers, and tape measures. Garage sales are a great place to start, as well as asking for donations locally. Businesses are also often very generous. For our club, Fabric Mart donated fabric for projects, and McCall Pattern Company donated patterns. If your students come from a more affluent school, then I would ask parents to contribute towards costs if needed. But, I would certainly be aware that such requirements may make participation impossible in economically challenged schools.



Now that you’ve got the support of administration and volunteers, student members and parent approval, and rounded up the basic tools and supplies, it’s time to meet! Let the students know the first meeting day. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way about meeting times.
  • Be strict about start and finish times. Kids will want to stay longer, but your volunteers may not want to. So, respect the time of the volunteers, and keep an eye on the clock.
  • Set rules and let students know that if they break them, they can’t be a member. I have had to let members go for fighting and for misuse of sewing supplies.
  • Skip the snacks. For the first few years, I thought students needed to refuel after a long day at school before they could start sewing. Snacks were always a hassle and extra expense, and mostly, took a huge chunk of time. So, this last year, I said no snacks. No one complained, meetings went much more smoothly, and we covered a lot more ground.
  • Give each student a box with their supplies and make them take care of it. Maybe even label everything with their names. Kids do well when given responsibility. When there is 5 minutes left, it’s time for students to put things away. For an elementary school, 1 hour is about right. If I were working with older kids, I might go as long as 2 hours.



Now, you may be wondering, what kind of projects should you do? Here are some of my favorites:

  • We always start with sewing on paper. You can find sewing mazes online, print them out, and let them go. Print out extras for the speedy sewers. Students love this exercise.
  • Make sure to spend one meeting on the parts of the sewing machine and how to thread it. I have a diagram of a sewing machine that they have to label the parts on the diagram. By far, the hardest concept to get across is that you have to lower the presser foot when sewing. The name “presser foot” doesn’t make sense to kids, especially since there is also a foot pedal! I often revert to calling it a clamp, which seems to describe its function better.



  • When starting to sew with fabric, I usually cut 5” squares from colorful cotton fabric, and have them make a 9 patch quilt top. If you want, you can use this as a pillow top, back it with a solid fabric, and stuff it with fiberfill. 
  • Tote bags, bookmarks, and pillowcases are all things that you can do with rectangles of fabric. I generally pre-cut these things because we really don’t have a good cutting space at the school. Plus it saves time.
  • Make Mom happy by having them sew Mom a present- a heart shaped stuffed pillow, a cosmetic bag, or an infinity scarf are all easy to sew and great gifts.
  • If you don’t have time to plan and prep a project, sometimes just providing a big pile of fabric scraps and letting them have creative freedom is lots and lots of fu
  • When introducing patterns, choose super simple ones at first. Maybe a drawstring skirt or pajama pants. Allow several weeks to complete a pattern project.
  • Kids love to embellish things, so we do lots of iron-on gems, flowers, fabric markers for drawing, etc.
  • Do something to give back to the school or community. One year, we took a field trip to an adult daycare where the students met the clients and asked them what they wanted. We made adult bibs and walker bags in the residents’ favorite colors. There are tons of things that you can do!

Most important- make it fun! Don’t expect perfection, or anything remotely near it. Really, encouraging confidence and creativity is the goal, not getting a perfectly straight seamline. Talk about the things that you make, and show them what is possible! Give them positive feedback on absolutely everything.



In our schools, 5th grade is the last year of elementary school. At the last meeting of the year, I overheard our members talking about how sorry they felt for the kids that weren’t in sewing club because sewing club was the BEST part of elementary school, and that they were going to start a sewing club when they went to middle school!

So, it may seem like this is a lot of work. And you may be thinking, why would anyone do that for kids they don’t even know? All I can tell you is, yes, it is a lot of work, but it is worth every minute of it. I think my volunteers would agree that they get as much out of it as the kids do. If you love to sew and are up for the challenge, give it a try! You never know what impact you might have on a young person’s life.

Happy Sewing!

Ann

Special thanks to Fabric Mart Fabrics, McCall Pattern Company, and Kayla Myers Photography

Saturday, August 26, 2017

End of Summer Dresses with McCalls 7565


I hope that you've had a lovely summer!  I know that it's almost over according to the calendar, but I'm nowhere near done with summer!  It's been perfect weather here, and we're enjoying every last drop of it.  So, in the spirit of summer, I decided to make a couple more sleeveless dresses, even though I know that the clock is ticking on the time that I can wear them. 



For my first dress, I used a beautiful rayon challis in a floral print that reminds me of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.  I wanted a pattern that would flow gracefully to show of the challis' incredible movement, and I chose McCalls 7565. 
For the sunflower print, I made View B, which is the one with the hi-low hem. 

Even though I am tall (5 feet 9 inches), I actually had to cut off about 3" so that it wouldn't drag the ground.  I'm sure that this is because of the tendency of rayon to grow longer.  I  love the look, but I've discovered that that long hem gets caught underneath the rollers of my office chair at work, and I'm afraid that I will end of tearing it.  So, I think that I will probably end up straightening out the hem, just for practicality's sake.
 Here it is from the back.  You can see that it has a yoke and side seam pockets.  And this dress is so much fun to wear.  I can't stop swirling in it!


For my next dress, I decided to use a slightly bolder print- one that reminds me of suns in bright pinks and oranges.  Just to make them look a little different, I made this one with the cap sleeve, and with the straight hemline.  I did not have to do a full bust adjustment or length adjustment- this pattern has a lot of ease.  I would not choose a stiff fabric for it, or else you might look like you are wearing a tent!

 Yes, I know that the hem doesn't look very straight, but that is again the fault of the rayon and it's love for growing.  I could have evened it out, but I decided I liked the slight wave this way!
I got so many compliments on this one when I wore it to work!  It was a huge hit.

I really can't take all of the credit though.  The fabric is just really striking.  And so, so comfortable!
I am warming up to rayon challis.  I used to hate it, but now that I can predict it's behavior a little better, I am able to work with it, instead of against it.

I decided to wear this one belted, which cuts down on it's swirlability. but makes it look different from the first dress enough that I don't think anyone but you and I would know it's the same pattern!  Here they are side by side:



I'm sure that I can extend the season by wearing a cardigan with both of these dresses.  Are you still sewing summer clothes?  Or have you moved on in preparation for cooler weather?

Happy Sewing!
Ann

Monday, August 7, 2017

Silk Taffeta Pillows, Table Runner and Bias Dress



I love making pillow covers!  It's one of the first projects that I use with beginning sewing students because it is just so quick and rewarding.  And if you're like me and you constantly want to redecorate, changing pillow covers is a relatively low cost and easy way to bring a fresh look to a room.  Much more acceptable to hubby than new furniture or painting!


This time I was working with a very large plaid silk taffeta from Fabric Mart.  Since it was a large plaid, my first project with it was to make some queen size pillow shams.  They are the plaid ones in the back of the photo.  I also made the two printed ones in the center from a home dec fabric that I had in the stash for a while.. 


I wanted to make the covers removable with a zipper, and include a braided trim.  As luck would have it, I found a whole card of braided trim at an estate sale that worked with my taffeta for just $2!


To start, I used a zipper foot to stitch down the braided trim all around one side of the pillow. Then I serged a piece of lining fabric to the back of each side.  I don't think that you would have to line these, but I'm using down feather pillows, so I thought that the lining might be a barrier to feathers poking out.


For the corners, I trimmed the braided trim and wrapped tape around the ends so that they wouldn't ravel.  Then, I just pushed the edges together at a corner, so that after the pillow was turned, they would be on the inside, like this:


Then, I went back and sewed the zipper face down over the braided trim, as if it would be an invisible zipper.


This is what it looked like before I sewed them together.


And this is the zipper afterwards-you can just barely see it under the trim.


It's hard to capture the sheen on these pillows, but they are really quite beautiful and rich-looking in person!  Using so many pillows on a bed is a relatively new thing for me, and I found this interesting article on how to arrange pillows using different combinations.
 
I used 2-1/4 yards of the silk, and I lined them with 2-1/4 yards of drapery lining.  I had about a 12" wide piece of silk left from cutting the pillows, so I decided to make a table runner for our foyer table from it.


On the back side, I used the drapery lining, and did a similar thing with the braided trim.  I think that the braided trim really is a simple way to make things look high end.


I finished it just in time for a bridal shower that we were hosting, and another great coincidence- the letters of their names were painted in the same shade of green!


I wanted to make something to wear from the taffeta for the shower, but didn't want anyone to see the pillows and table runner, and be able to know that it was the same fabric- a Scarlet O'Hara situation!  So, I took a 2-1/2 yard piece of the taffeta, and dyed it with 2 Tbsp of navy blue fabric dye.  It absorbed the dye so fast, I couldn't believe how much it changed it!  It turned it into kind of a denimy blue with lavender accents.  Here is the before and after side by side:


The texture became a little limper, and slightly less shiny, but I definitely prefer it for less formal clothes.  It's been a million degrees here with unspeakable humidity, so I decided to make a  loose-fitting sleeveless dress that I could wear for the bridal shower.

Kwik Sew 3049

I found a simple a-line dress pattern, Kwik Sew 3049, with center front and back seams, so that I could cut it on the bias and match the plaid design.  From my previous experience working with silk taffeta in apparel, it doesn't have any "give" at all when wearing, so you need to be extra sure that you have enough ease in your garment to be comfortable.  So, I made this a size larger than my measurements indicated. 



I had a one yard package of lavender beaded trim that I used to accent the pockets and neckline, and used a self bias strip turned to the outside to finish the neck.  Even though it's simple, this was a technically challenging project to get everything to line up just so!


I got a lot of compliments on it at the shower, and one very nice surprise, was that it didn't wrinkle much at all!  These photos were taken after a very long day, setting up and then hosting the shower, and then even a nap afterwards, and there are really no more creases than there were to begin with!  The crinkly texture was there all along.


I still have some left, but three projects out of one fabric is enough for now!  It's time for me to move on to fall sewing, so today I'm cutting into some wool fabric today for a coat.  Living in 4 seasons gives us so much variety for sewing!

Happy Sewing!
Ann

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