Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fabric Necklace and Polymer Clay Creation

I was so pleased when this picture arrived in my inbox yesterday. My friend, Barb Alexander, a polymer clay artist, created this gorgeous necklace, taking inspiration from my fabric necklace posts.

See how she incorporated a multi-coloured free-form polymer clay bead as the focal point. She used Corona Black with Gold batik rayon fabric for the strips. After finishing the edges, Barb loosely plaited the strips before attaching to the focal.

Barb Alexander also conducts tours to Bali for women who wish to experience the wonderful centuries-old textile techniques that have made this Indonesian island famous: Tjap and tjanting batik, weaving, ikat, indigo, morinda. You meet the artisans and get right in on the design process with hands-on workshops. Imagine 13 days in a textile and tropical paradise!

Visit Barb's website at to get the details.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Different Day - Different Fabric Necklace

Having been so pleased with the previous fabric necklace, I have moved on to creating another but different style of fabric necklace. This version involves fabric that looks good on both sides, rolled hem edges and two metal D-rings.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

1. Choose two or three fabrics that are attractive on both sides. I chose gold with brown and avocado green batik rayon.

2. Cut six one-inch strips of fabric. I used three of each colour.

3. Set up your serger for a three-thread rolled hem using your manual.  I used gold serger thread in my needle and lower looper. I used forest green 40wt embroidery rayon thread in the upper looper. Test until you get an edge you are happy with.

4. Each strip will have a straight across short end and a pointed short end. To achieve this you will start to serge your strip in the middle of one short end and gradually come out to the long edge.

5. Continue to serge along the first long edge just skimming off a little of the fabric with the serger knife. I find that keeping the edge of the fabric along the edge of my serger's ledge achieves this nicely.

6. Continue serging the first edge and serge straight off the end. This short end stays straight across.

7. Turn the strip around being careful to keep the "right" side of the rolled hem edge up. Line up the previously serged edge just to the left of the presser foot and begin serging at the end that you just serged off of.

8. Continue to serge along the second edge of the fabric strip, keeping the first serged rolled hem just skimming along the left edge of your presser foot.

9. When you are close to the end of the strip you will want to start serging toward the middle to meet the beginning of the first serged edge to form a point.

10. Carefully serger off the end, forming the point. Do not cut the serger tail.

11. Continue in this manner until you have serged all six fabric strips.

12. Take three of your fabric strips and insert them through one of the metal D-rings. You can arrange the strips in any order you like.

13. Using a narrow or zipper foot stitch the fabric to attached the first D-ring.

14. Trim away some of the fabric.

15. Take the remaining three fabric strips and insert them through the second metal D-ring.

16. Place the fabric strips so that the raw ends are facing together and the D-rings are slightly off-set.

17. Stitch the fabric strips together attaching the second D-ring in the process.

18. Carefully arrange your fabric strips so they are flat and in alignment. Then take the serger tails of the pointed ends and pull them through both D-rings so the necklace ends are coming together as shown.

19. Take the same serger tails again and thread them back through the one D-ring to the left. Proceed to pull the pointed ends of the strips through and arrange to the length you prefer.

20. You can trim or leave the serger tails, knot the ends, or add jewellry findings as I have done. Be sure to use a fray check product on the tails or trimmed ends so that they do not unravel.

21. You may wish to add a brooch, chains or other embellishments to your necklace to complete the look.

22. Wear and enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fabric Necklaces - My Next Addiction

A sewing friend who saw my earlier "Making Lanyards" post, sent me some photos of fabric necklaces that she thought I'd be interested in. And she was right. Immediately I pulled out some printed cotton fabric and started to cut strips. I was just back from a  lesson on my new Janome serger at the Oakville Sewing Centre and figured that a rolled hem would make a perfect finish to the edges. And so here are the results of my most recent creative exploit.

Choosing Fabric:  Just about any lightweight woven fabric will be suitable for this project. Choose fabrics from your stash or scraps left over from a previous project. You can make necklaces to coordinate or complement a garment you have sewn for yourself.

Tools and Supplies: A rotary cutter, clear quilter's ruler and cutting mat. A serger that sews rolled hem edges. Three cones of thread. Hand sewing needle, thread and 11mm shank button. Fabric glue.

Step One:  Use fabric pieces that are 45" wide selvedge to selvedge. Press the fabric using some starch to give it extra body. Fold the fabric carefully in half on the lengthwise grain selvedge to selvedge. In order to avoid a "bend" at the fold line, line up one of  your ruler's horizontal lines with the fold.  Cut one inch strips on the crossgrain. Eight or nine strips is usually enough for a necklace but that's up to you. You will need one extra strip for testing and finishing the ends.

Note: If you don't have a rotary cutter, clear ruler and cutting mat, don't despair. Just take a regular ruler and mark off one inch strips. Cut them with sharp fabric scissors.

Step Two: Take the one inch strips to the ironing board and press them lengthwise, wrong sides together.

Step Three:  Thread your serger with thread to coordinate or contrast with your fabric. I used regular poly black serger thread. Set up the machine for rolled hem edges using your manual and test on a scrap. Adjust until you like what you see. Serge the raw edges together. Do not cut off your serger thread tails.

Note:  If your serger cannot do rolled hem edges or if you are afraid of them, use a three-thread narrow serged edge.  If you don't have a serger, use your sewing machine. Set it to a narrow zigzag and shorten the stitch length. It will be just as pretty.

Step Four:  Line up your strips on a table or ironing board placing one of the selvedge edges of each strip together. Arrange the strips one on top of the other in the colour order you prefer. You might also want to ensure that the right side of the serging is all facing the same way, but this is personal choice.

Step Five:  Pin this end of the necklace to the ironing board and braid the serger tails together. Form the braid into a loop that will accommodate a button of your choice, and tuck the loop carefully in between the layers of fabric.

Step Six:  Take to your sewing machine and secure the ends and loops together by stitching back and forth three or four times.

Step Six:  To cover the stitching at the end and finish the end nicely cut a two inch length from an extra serged strip. Hand stitch the short end of this strip to one side of the end of the necklace. Using permanent fabric glue to secure, wrap the strip around the end of the necklace and then turn and stitch the remaining short end to the necklace.  One end of your fabric necklace is now finished.

Step Seven:  Take the loose strips at the other end of the necklace and arrange as in Step Four. Make sure the strips are in the same order as at the other end. Or not... as you wish.

Step Eight:  Stitch the ends together with the sewing machine being sure to secure all strips. Even up the ends by cutting off the excess fabric and serger tails 1/4 inch away from the stitching line.

Step Nine:  Cut another two inch length of serged strip and hand sew and glue to end of necklace as in Step Six. Do not knot off thread.

Step Ten: Find a lonely single shank button in your button stash about 11mm in diameter that goes with your necklace. Sew it to the cut end of the necklace securing with several stitches through all layers. Knot off. Trim any dangling threads and you are all done!

The same fabric necklace is shown on the mannequin doubled, making it look more like a very funky collar. I chose three coordinated fabrics from M&S Textiles. The printed design is based on aboriginal Australian artwork and is called Bush Tucker. It comes in white, black and red.

But you can get creative and make the necklace in all sorts of fabrics. Holiday theme, metallic and silk douppioni fabrics come to mind.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Price Comparison - Imperial vs Metric

We all do it. We judge a fabric by it's price at face value. Often, within a fraction of a second, we decide that it's too cheap, too expensive or just right. All the time we are evaluating. This is human nature and when we spend our hard earned dollars, we don't want to regret it later.

Here in Canada we are "metric" but many vendors still sell in yards and inches. Also people shop cross border all the time. In the U.S. all fabrics are measured in yards and inches. It's a worthwhile exercise to make proper comparisons to know what you are purchasing. In other words, it helps to "do the math".

Let's say we have exactly the same fabric, one is priced by the yard, the other by the metre. The price is $18 per yard from one vendor and $19.70 per metre from the other vendor. Which one is cheaper? A metre is exactly 1.09361 yards. Multiply $18 times 1.09361 and you have your answer. The impulse is to go with the lower stated price, but in fact the price is exactly the same.

Let's say we have exactly the same fabric, except one is 45" wide and the other is 60" wide. The price for the 45" wide fabric is $15 per yard and the 60" wide fabric is $19 per yard. Which one is cheaper? One yard of 60" fabric is equivalent to 1-3/8 yards of 45" fabric. Again, the impulse is to buy the $15 fabric but in this case the $19 fabric is the better value.

It gets more complicated when comparing different measures; e.g. 45" versus 154cm but the principles are the same. Convert to a common measure and compare. So, if at first blush, the price seams high to you, check the fabric width. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It Might be an Addiction - Three More Lanyards

As a fashion sewer I don't often venture into a quilt store. But in order to feed my new lanyard addiction, I needed some Christmas and holiday themed fabric. I headed down to my local independent quilt store, The Quilter's Garden Patch, on Bronte Road and found some very nice fabrics. Janet Henry, the owner, was very helpful when I explained what I was doing. I'm sure she spotted me as being in unfamiliar territory right away.

I found, amongst others things, a black print with red poinsettias and metallic gold scroll, Christmas greetings written in script in various colours, and blue with white snowflakes. Here they are all made up as beautiful, handy lanyards.

I got to play with with my Simplicity Rotary Cutting Machine and my Simplicity Bias Tape Maker machine, again. The print with the script was a little tricky because the writing was a little off grain. So I had to trim across the width of the fabric to create an edge that lined up perfectly with the writing. Then I cut all strips parallel to that line. It worked out nicely.

And also, as I was stitching the lanyards, I was practicing my edgestitching skills as taught to me by Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems. Edgestitching when done to perfection is "one needle width away from the edge". You hold and guide the fabric so as to be in control but allow the feed dogs to do the work. You also need to hold your mouth just the right way (same as for putting on mascara). With the first lanyard I realised that I needed more of that edgestitching practice and I'm happy to say that with each lanyard, I'm getting better and better at it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three MyStyle Christmas Greetings

Red is such a bright and cheerful colour and why I chose it for my Christmas card designs. I enjoyed designing and making these unique greeting cards. They are a special touch for special friends or a great keepsake invitation to a holiday party. Make the dresses part of your theme for more impact.

And while you are at it, why not submit your design to the "Your Style to MyStyle Contest". Click here for contest information and rules. You could have your design featured on television and possibly win a Brother Project Runway sewing machine.

Lady in Red - MyStyle Greetings

My third MyStyle creation is a red dress with a gold scroll print over sparkle red tulle. It is tied with a metallic gold bow. Simple but with lots of impact. I called this one Lady in Red because it reminded me of the song that my husband and I often danced to. I used to have a silk red evening dress and he would sing the words softly in my ear as we danced.

"I've never seen you looking so gorgeous as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright
you were amazing

I've never seen so many people wanna be there by your side
and when you turn to me and smile
it took my breath away"

MyStyle Greetings pattern and MyStyle Greetings refills are available on my website.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Black Magic - MyStyle Greetings

Next in my personal series is called "Black Magic". At Christmas back in the day  there always seemed to be a box of Black Magic chocolates under the tree. And when I was small there was something magical about that time of year. And so the name of this dress. I think it would have looked stunning on Ava Gardner in her prime.

"That old black magic has me in its spell,
That old black magic that you weave so well
Those icy fingers up and down my spine,
The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine"

MyStyle Greetings pattern and refills can be purchased on by website as

Santa Baby - MyStyle Greetings

Your special sewing friends will appreciate receiving a holiday greeting card customized by you just for them. I always enjoy adding my own creative touch through fabrics and trims. Here's the first Christmas card I've made and I'm calling it Santa Baby. I picture Marilyn Monroe in this cute, fur trimmed dress singing:

"Santa baby, an out-of-space convertible too, light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight"
Marilyn never actually sung this song but it fits her movie star image. It was Eartha Kitt who first recorded it in 1953.

With MyStyle Greetings, you are the designer. And there's a contest going on right now! You could win a Brother Project Runway sewing machine and have a MyStyle Greetings design name after you. Click here for contest rules.

Click here to purchase your MyStyle Greetings pattern and MyStyle Greetings refills.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More Lanyards!

I can't stop sewing these babies. Here are four of them in the button print, a Japanese patchwork print, a favourite Bali batik cotton and a Christmas tablecloth print.

More on the way too.

Lanyards for Fabric Fashionistas!

I'm hoping to get a series going here of quick, fun and small projects that you can make for your sewing (or non-sewing) friends and family.

One gift idea is a lanyard for holding scissors or thread snips. Here's the cautionary disclaimer.  Don't give to children who may eat and choke on them or accidentally strangle themselves. Don't wear them near machinery where they can get caught and pull you in; e.g. your antique washing machine with the rollers. If your scissors are pointy and you hang them on your lanyard and bend over while sitting, you could stick yourself. And there's probably many other unpleasant things that could happen while wearing a lanyard around your neck. Same goes for necklaces and scarves. Just be careful!

Step One:  I started with some printed cotton that was cut in full lengths across the width.  Quilter's fat quarters won't work unless you cut and piece them so you have 45" straight across. I used my Simplicity Rotary Cutting Machine that I purchased some time ago from Joanne's Creative Notions. Trim off an edge of your fabric so it is perfectly straight (on the cross grain). Set the cutting width on the Rotary Cutting Machine to 1-7/8" (same as my bias tape maker--more on that later) and start cutting following the instructions.  Because it is on the cross grain, this machine cuts pretty neatly and is easy to control. I used a print with buttons on it. I like the sewing theme and the fact that the print is still recognizable as buttons when cut into strips. Cut as many as you want to make lanyards of, ensuring you have one or two for yourself. Of course you can just usie a quilter's ruler and rotary cutter to achieve the same thing but I wanted to play.

Step Two:  Next I set up my Simplicity Bias Take Maker machine. Don't let the name fool you. It folds and presses fabric cut on the cross grain too. While the machine was warming up, I stitched three strips together at the selvedges so I would only have to roll them and put them through the machine once. Then I followed the directions and out came three strips with a fold on either side. Watch to ensure the rollers don't catch where you stitched the strips together. This is fun. There are tape makers that you use with your iron if you don't have this machine.

Step Three:  Take the strips to the ironing board and press in half so the raw edges are to the inside. If you have joined several strips together cut them apart now, snipping off the selvedges.

Step Four:  Slip a lanyard clip onto one strip and then stitch the ends together with a 1/4" seam, right sides together, being careful not to twist the strip.

Step Five: While continuing to move the clip out of the way, edgestitch the folded edges together encasing the raw edges. Then edgestitch the other side of the strip.

Step Six: Slide the clip to the opposite side to the 1/4" seam and hold in place.  Using a zipper foot, carefully stitch a square with an "x" inside to keep the clip in place.

Clip on your snips or scissors and put it over your head. I find that using the 45" width of the fabric makes a nice length for scissor as I can reach the threads at the sewing machine.

Look in your stash for bright prints, holiday themed prints and so forth. Your sewing friends will appreciate this gift.

You can purchase the lanyard clips from my website at

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Email Communication Gone Mad

There is no doubt that the way in which we communicate has changed at an incredible pace over the past decade. Email replaced telephone calls and physical mail almost entirely.

Then, of course, just like telemarketers would make annoying calls to us at dinnertime, emails pushing everything from miracle cures and sex-related enhancers clogged up our inboxes. Well, the telemarketers have been reigned in because of the "do not call" registry, and Internet providers have found a way to block all that spam--well at least most of it.

Email communication is one of the most important ways for small businesses to reach out to their customers. Online businesses like Distinctive Sewing Supplies have customers all over North America and to communicate with them online is important. Physical mail is just cost prohibitive and wasteful.

Respecting the privacy of customers is paramount when it comes to email communication. Having a privacy policy and permission-based communication is ethical and makes sound business sense. Using an email communication provider like Constant Contact (which I use), means you have to abide by their stringent policies in that regard or lose your account.

I started collecting permission-based email addresses at consumer shows over seven years ago. Individuals may also opt into my email list through my website and my facebook page or just by sending an email to me. Every email newsletter I send out has an opt-out link at the top and the bottom of the page. There is no one that I email that hasn't positively opted-in.

So you would think that all would be well in the world of email communication with my customers. Well it's good but it's not as good as it once was. Why? Because of a new phenomena--email fatigue.

I sign up for emails from my competitors and from businesses that I am interested in. I'm sure they do the same. Mostly it's to keep up to date with what is going on in the world of sewing and to judge the trends. Here's what I have discovered:

A. I look forward to the newsletters from companies that are organized and have a clear, often consistent message to convey. eQuilter is one example. I receive an email every Friday with information on new products and sales. They have since added a mid-week communication called "Creative Nudge". I don't read that one because the Friday newsletter is sufficient. If they drop it I wouldn't miss it. Another example is Dover Publications. They also send a Friday newsletter with a link to free samples from their books. I download the pictures I like but I have purchased a lot of Dover Publications as a result of this nice end of week "freebie".

B. I enjoy newsletters from organizations that I belong to like Pattern Review. They inform me about new patterns, contests and the like. The newsletters come when there is something to say. There are also a number of independent artists like Marcy Tilton, Katherine Tilton and Diane Ericson that communicate when they have something unique to share.

C. Then there are the online fabric stores that started inundating me with several emails a week. When the recession hit, it seemed that the emails just kept coming. There were sales after sales, flash sales, repeat flash sales, that for some reason they claimed you couldn't pass up on. Soon I realized that they were having sales all the time. Designer fabrics from New York, Italy, France and wherever. Really?

The stores that fall into category C have caused email fatigue and as a result, people are opting out of receiving them and unfortunately out of receiving emails from other businesses like mine. I don't get a lot of opt-outs. But when I do there are generally two reasons given:  I'm not sewing anymore. I'm getting too many emails from other sources.

I email once or twice a month with information on events, products and sewing courses. I am going to go to more regular emails, called Fashion Fridays. I rarely hold sales because I like to give good value and good service consistently. I would hate to have a customer purchase a product one week at regular price and then see the same product go at a discount the next week. It makes you feel like you were ripped off--which you were.

To all the people out there who subscribe to my email newsletter thank you.