Saturday, July 31, 2010

Planning for Sewing

painting by Louis Aston Knight, Pennyslvania 1873-1948

By learning to press a hem before sewing, and then stitching a straight stitch, you nearly have all the skill you need for just about anything you wish to make.  Your iron will be the most important tool you have in sewing, and if you do not have one, you can get a small iron for crafts, which can be placed on a towel on the table next to your sewing machine.

  If you want to learn to stitch straight and evenly, you can always use a checked fabric, and sew along the pattern on the fabric. I use large gingham check fabric when showing beginners how to straight-stitch, and all projects are made using the checked fabric.

The above sketch shows a way to plan out the sewing projects you wish to complete. Sketching out all your ideas can help you determine how much fabric you will need.  When you do not have enough, you can always use a different fabric, as I have done with the muslin, that still matches it.  When you have sketched every thing you can think of that you would like to make, you have a clearer idea of what you are wanting to do.  Try sewing other things like baby-blocks and balls, ornaments, and picture frames, or make  covers for  plant pots,  valances for the tops of your windows to hide the rods, and a tissue box cover. Try making a hat and hand bag. Some of these may come up in future beginner sewing posts.  Use a nice pen and a deluxe box of crayons to illustrate the projects you are dreaming up. I think sewing should be inspiring and enjoyable, and not stressful.  I remember as children, how we would take pieces of burlap and make small burlap bags and pretend to carry silver coins in them, made from foil covered round cardboard pieces. With fabric, we could make anything, from a tent to a sleeping bag.

This is what has been completed so far: pillow and pillow case, yo-yo quilt piece, soft toy, little gift bag,  lamp shade cover, patchwork quilted potholder or hot pad, dish towel or tea towel, handkerchief, table runner.

I began more projects with muslin, and added ball fringe trim: yard-long pillow, lamp shade cover, handkerchief, coffee-table or end-table cloth, and fireplace mantle cover.

These mantel cloths are quite expensive to buy, so if you can make your own, you can have several without spending a lot. Look for other fabric sources also: an old sheet, a curtain, pillow cases, skirts and the skirt part of dresses.  When you can do the simple things shown on these tutorials, you can have everything you need to decorate your home or wear.

These are muslin curtains, which are very easy to make, with the added trim on the inner edges. Tie backs can be made, as shown in the drawings, and directions will be shown in other posts. Muslin can be as wide as 120 inches and makes an excellent home decorating fabric, since you can dye it any way you wish, and you can even rubber-stamp your own pattern on it, using your rubber stamps and fabric ink that is sold by rubber stamp companies.


Anonymous said...


This is wonderful! Your inginuity and workmanship are fabulous, even though these are so called 'beginners' pieces.

I wish I could commission some from you.

Keep on sewing!

and keep on sharing with everyone out here in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another lovely, inspiring post. I think it's because of you that I dusted off my sewing machine. My latest project is cute gingham aprons for my daughters' birthday presents. Plus, I'll make them each a cherry cutting board. These gift will cost very little to make but will mean more than gift certificates in the long run. At least they will contain love. Thanks for your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Love the planning sheet! I'm in the process of packing and moving, just packed some rubbermaid bins of odd pcs. of fabric, many saved from discarded clothing, to be re-fashioned into something useable. I will use this idea to jot down my inspiration for each of these pcs. I've saved--it will definately help my organization!

I just have to tell you, I've been wanting to get my 6yo daughter started on hand sewing. She's gone through the sewing cards, and has a small basket of tools and some scraps that she plays with on occasion. She also is experimenting with embroidery using bright embroidery thread, large needle, and loose woven fabric (burlap). It is time to increase her skills, so your series is timely for us. I decided that I needed to brush up my own handsewing skills (I learned to use the machine very young, never really did hand sewing) so I sat down a couple of evenings and hemmed, then hand-stitched lace to a simple square of pretty tea-cup fabric (from Hobby Lobby) to adorn the tea-table my girl so loves to use. When she saw the finished product, she slapped her hands to her face with her mouth open and dropped to her knees, saying, "MOM! It's SOOO beautiful!" (ok, so she's a bit of a drama queen...:) But I can assure you she's interested in hand-sewing now, and can hardly wait to try a project herself. I found a bit of the blue rose fabric you used while at a Walmart in another state, so we're going to use it!

I was amazed that the hand-sewing was really therapeutic, like knitting, and it didn't take nearly as long to do the project as I'd anticipated. It is also something that I feel is very well-made, and I will cherish the hand-stitching far more than if I'd just zipped it up on the machine!

Thanks for your inspiration and teaching. My home is being blessed!

Lisa G. said...

I want to add that ball fringe is quite popular now - I'm often seeing it edging pillow covers.

Anonymous said...

Love it,
L. Rose

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your posts on sewing. Your instructions are clear and the ideas spring board ideas I have never thought of. I am amazed at the way you look and think of things. Your creativity is a joy to learn from.

Anonymous said...

I love the curtains! We recently moved, and I've been trying to figure out what curtains to buy--I might be buying muslin now, lol!

Anonymous said...

May I make a request?
(Not that you are in NEED of yet another creative idea to make a post on!!)

A beginner's sewing basket?
And a list of the items to include in it?

When I decided, thanks to your inspiration, to try handsewing, I spent far too much time looking for the items I needed to sit and work with...I need to create an old fashioned sewing basket for my daughter, and one for myself. I have several containers that could be used, various baskets and tins, even an old cigar box or two, but I need some inspiration. What do you use, Lady Lydia?

I have been looking a bit on the internet, and these are the most inspiring photos I've found,

love the oldish victorian feel, but not sure I can re-create it.
I want to be visually inspired when I look at the outside AND the inside of the work basket, and I want it to smell good, too! :)

Might you have some ideas to share?

Many thanks!

Lydia said...

I currently have two things. One is a plastic bucket used by children at Easter, to carry the pin cushion, sciccors, threads and other hard items. The other is a cloth covered box that came with a set of sheets, from Wal Mart. Have you ever seen these? It matches the sheets. They are folded up inside the box when you buy it, wrapped in a ribbon that also matches. In it I put my folded cloth for various small projects, in it. Although a wicker basket is nice, if it is not lined or padded, the pins and needles and buttons can get caught in the spaces of the woven straw. For larger sewing items. I have on occasion used one of those zip up clear plastic bags that bedding comes in, for larger projects, such as a dress and a pattern. Thank you for giving me an idea. Making a sewing basket could be a future post. I have sometimes rolled down a large paper grocery sack to about halfway, and put my cut-out pieces of fabric for a dress, along with some patterns. The pattern envelopes fit nicely in the narrow ends of the bag. A card board box that looks like a tray, similar to the kind you get when you are buying plants, makes a good box for projects already cut out that you are working on. I suppose there are a lot containers you can use, including a large plastic ice cream container with handle and lid.

candy said...

These are all excellent ideas!!!
Thank you. I will be sewing some of these ideas soon!

Lydia said...


You might enjoy this

Unknown said...

You seem to be one organized lady! I enjoy your sharing!


Anonymous said...

Regarding sewing baskets: I haven't purchased new sheets for so long that I have not seen the boxes of sheets from Wmart of which you speak, but I will make a point to look at them now! Those are good ideas, and thank you for sharing. I, too, find that I need a smaller container for the sewing tools, and often a separate one for the project in progress. I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with!


Anonymous said...

I love the planning sheet. My daughter will love making her own (as will I.)
I have not tried adding ball fringe to anything-now I would love to find some. It looks great on the curtains.
I was sickened Friday when I went to my Wal-Mart and found out they have closed their fabric department-I know it is happening everywhere but I really had thought ours would stay open. I was hoping to find some of the fabric you have used in your sewing projects because it would go well with some of the rooms in my home. Fortunately, I have a good fabric stash right now.
Thank you for all of your sewing ideas and tutorials.

Anonymous said...

I love it when you write about sewing. This idea is great. This time of year, school supplies are on sale, and one can find a notebook at my local WalMart for 15 cents, crayons for 25 cents and a pack of 20 pencils for 50 cents. Everything to start a nice sewing plan book can be bought for less than $1! I bought a one subject notebook and am going to decorate the cover with cut out fabric shapes then use it as a sewing plan book.

Anonymous said...

The lady who is looking for a nice sewing basket may want to try a local thrift store. I found a beautiful sewing basket for very little at my local Goodwill. I have seen other nice sewing baskets there since then. Sewing supplies and books can be found on EBay for very little, including patterns. I have also seen many nice wicker baskets in thrift stores. You could buy a wicker basket with a handle and line it with some pretty fabric to make a nice sewing basket. That way, you can get a basket the exact size that suits your needs.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the last picture on this post, of the muslin curtains. I just picked up Victoria Magazine's Rooms of Bliss Special Issue last night, and your post would have fit into this issue just beautifully!

It reminds me of the bedroom on page 23.

I have muslin curtains in my bedroom. I didn't even stitch them, just used fabric bonder to hem them, and glue to help them hold to the curtain clips. They are my favorite curtains, just because of the texture of them, with a taupe colored wall.

My Wal-Mart fabric dept. is closing down next year. I think all of them are slated to go out now, it's just a matter of when.
I have found soo many good $1.50 cottons there this year, I was really amazed. I would just buy the whole roll for $15.00. I liked their prints better than any I could find in the fabric store. I will really miss this.

I read after a famous sewing teacher/designer that said if you want to learn sewing, just give yourself the freedom to go through rolls and rolls of fabric. You will not have that dreadful indecisiveness about cutting the little piece of fabric that you bought for a certain project. You will have freedom, knowing there is the whole rest of the roll if you mess up or need to cut a part differently as you go, etc. You can really learn sewing this way, instead of just focusing on the one project in front of you.

Beautiful post. I love the fringe!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,
Thank you so much for your sewing posts. I only wish there was an easy way to find your previous sewing posts (where you showed dresses you made inspired by various paintings and a seasonal sewing plan). I found them so inspirational I started sewing a few of my own dresses. You made me realize how I only needed to start and find my own inspiration.

As an olive skinned woman my personal style may go more toward slightly stronger colors (bright pink not pastel!)but the femininity of those posts struck such a chord. I occasionally go page by page through your blog to find them again and they always send me back to my little sewing area feeling renewed to make something special out of something simple.

Many of the other sewing blogs out there are beautiful for sure but overwhelming in their use of complex patterns and expensive fabrics. They sometimes take AWAY my desire to sew by making it seem an insurmountable task.

Thank you for your many labors of love on this blog!!

Mrs. C.

Lydia said...

I found the new Victoria special issue "Rooms of Bliss" and wish all their issues had that quality and classic-ness.

If you make muslin curtains, the selvages can be the sides and all you have to do is make a casing at top and a hem at the other end. It is like an instant curtain.

I prefer the fabric at Wal Mart, for some reason.

In a gloomy climate or dark house, muslin is a great accessory fabric for curtains, cloths, and pretty accessories. If you get tired of it, just dip it in rit dye and you have a complete new theme.

You can get cotton gingham in the baby section of fabrics at JoAnns.

That fringe used to be only what poor people used but now it is more high-style. It also comes in rolls of pink, yellow, green, etc.

If you hand sew, you are not limited to being in your house with your machine. You can go outside and sit on the swing or sit on the front porch; you can sew while away from home, in waiting rooms, and so forth.

Lydia said...

I think it is an advantage to have a bolt of 45 inch muslin just to do what you want with, without worrying.

Lydia said...

I will try to go find those 19th century painting-inspired sewing posts and label them and put them on the side bar.

Someone asked about the homemaker's basket. I will have to do another one. I gave the other one away and took down the post for her privacy.

Anonymous said...

Yes! That is what I did on my muslin curtians, too - I just used the selvages on the sides and only had to turn up the top and bottom. I didn't even make a casing, as I hung my panels from ornate rings with clips on the rod. This required extra expense, in buying a more decorative rod, however. This was done for two skinnier windows, not as wide as yours in the picture, but from floor to ceiling. I would now like to make your version for my living room.

I always hang my curtains high, almost to the ceiling. I think that gives them a more formal effect, even when they are simple. I can't really tell from the picture, but it looks like you do the same.

Another fabric that I have used so much of since I "discovered" it, is called "Homespun", sold at Hobby Lobby for $2.00/yd. It comes in basic, understated colors (my favorite is a silver-sage green), as well as black, and is very soft, thin, and pliable. Similar to muslin, only a slightly lighter weight.

I made a Regency Gown out of it, and was so pleased. Now I am making a delicate, feminine shirt, and will probably try many other things with it. The simplicity of the fabric makes any details you put into the clothing stand out, and relieves bulk in a ruffled or gathered area.

Anonymous said...

Love your post as usual! You always inspire creativity and make us feel as though we could make anything. I too have looked through sewing magazines and pattern books and it just all seems so complicated. I think one reason is the fabrics and the patterns used. A lot of times the fabrics used are hard to work with, something you would need a serger for and the patterns too. Not everyone, or I would venture to say --that very few people have this kind of machine. Keep up the inspiration!

Lydia said...

That is an incredible deal on crayons and pencils and the things you need for your planning pages. I wonder if the sale is still going on, or if there is anything left, with prices like that!

Anonymous said...

Lydia, is the ball fringe machine washable? It is lovely, but I've been hesitant to use it because I was unsure how it would stand up to laundering. I would probably line dry any curtains I applied it to.

Lydia said...

Yes, it is washable. If you are not sure, you might be able to read something about it on the bolt that it comes on.

Anonymous said...

Your curtains look so clean and fresh I think I can actually smell them! God bless you and keep it up Lydia.

Karen Andreola said...

I like your curtains. Bobbles (or ball fringe) have always caught my eye. Over the years I have sewn curtains for the children's rooms from flat sheets - to match comforters. It is an economical way to cover large windows or a set of windows, especially. Quilted pillow shams are quite expensive. I'd like to make some of these. Thanks for the inspiration.

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

Hello dear Mrs. Sherman,
I have decided to begin reading this blog from the beginning, so ocassionally you will find comments from me on your older posts. I've done this with Karen Andreola's blog and Mrs. White's blog (The Legacy of Home). I have been so encouraged in my homemaking by listening to your talks. I love how informal they are. I just wanted to spend a little more time here.
Be blessed,
Laura Lane
Harvest Lane Cottage
Carthage Missouri

P.S. Thank you so much for including me in your blog list.