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Sewing a shirt sleeve placket..tutorial..

2 Feb

Finally we did this placket and finished the linen shirts!  Life is full!

I want to start by saying I purchased Fiona Bell’s book “Sewn With Love”. This book has classic patterns for children’s clothing.  The patterns are on a cd and you print them off for your use.

The sewing instructions are in the book with some pictures but scanty.  I have been sewing for 34 years and had never done a man’s shirt, or boy’s shirt with the button cuff and placket.  This appealed to me and some of the other styles in the book also, piqued my curiosity so I purchased it.

I have 8 boys and my husband and thought a shirt would be a good thing to know how to make.

I practiced on a little flannel shirt for my 3-year-old.  Then Victoria and I made my 15-year-old a John Deere print cotton shirt, and my 8-year-old a different John Deere print cotton shirt.

My dream was to be able to make cool 100% linen “church” or dress shirts.

Again, I started with my baby boys, smaller, less fabric to mess up and waste, right?

After 5 shirts, the plackets are getting easier, but the instructions in the book are not descriptive and helpful enough for an advanced beginner to understand.  Victoria, my 19-year-old, fresh brained daughter and I decided to do this tutorial together.

If you ever want to tackle a button sleeve placket we hope this helps you!!!

1.  Line up sleeve and placket piece …wrong side of sleeve fabric to right side of placket piece..

Notice the placket rectangle piece is cut at approximately the 1/3 point.

We’ll use thin side and fat side for our terminology 🙂
So sorry this linen is hard to tell right side from wrong side.  This pattern didn’t advise cutting your placket first, but this way worked best for us.

Now sew placket and sleeve together around cut making a u seam with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Then snip at angles up to corners of  “u” seam to make a good cornered turn…

Now you are ready to do the thin side of your placket..

First you invert your placket to the right side of your sleeve..

You will fold the outer edge of the thin side 1/4″ and press…Then fold in again and press, thus covering your thin side of your “u” seam with an approximate 3/8″ folded seam and raw edge “cover”

Now I make a little dot with my handy water soluble marker a tiny bit above my thin side “u” seam corner.  You can see it if you look closely

This little dot is where we are going to sew up to.  You can pin if you like.

Now you take the sleeve to your machine and sew a nice top stitch very close to the edge of your fold up to the pin or marking we just made.

After stitching up to the marking you snip off the excess 3/8″ folded fabric approximately 1/2″ above your “u” seam and in a perpendicular cut to your 3/8″ fold.  Now turn your scissors and continue cutting the excess fabric off the placket piece in a parallel  cut, removing the end of the 3/8″ fold on the thin side.

Now we are ready for the fat side, the side you see when you look at a shirt.

First we fold the fat side of the placket piece into thirds.  Press the first third, then fold over and press the second third, right side of placket fabric ending up on the out side.

Now we are ready to make the 45 degree angle folds for the pointed professional look.

First 45, then tuck under and pin the next 45 for your triangle top finish

You can press to help hold your shape and then you’re ready to stitch..

Stitch up outside of folded fat side just covering your “u” seam on the fat side of your sleeve..continue up and around the point and down to 1/4″ past your original placket cut..then stitch across the newly sewn placket parallel to the point…

I put this finished picture in to show we top stitching is on the side of placket on the sleeve not toward the opening.

Now you are ready to attach your cuff!

If you got this far the cuff is easy!! And your pattern instructions should be explanatory for that step!


Here are my guys wearing these linen shirts..

You can kind of see the cuffs 🙂

Hope this is helpful to someone! Thank you to Victoria for all her help on this tutorial! I couldn’t have done it without her!

Make your own ironing board cover…

4 Oct

I have done this many times.  I really don’t like dirty, scuzzy ironing board covers!

My last one was in good shape but one of my dear children slit it with something?  And so it was time for a new one.

This is so simple.

Flip your ironing board over on the wrong side of a piece of fabric.

I choose decorator fabric for it’s durability.

Trace your ironing board right on to the fabric.  Trace a little big, not tight to the shape, in order to give yourself  about 1/4″ seam allowance.

Cut out your shape.

Then cut out 2 1/2″ strips of fabric, enough to make it around your ironing board perimeter and a little extra for hemming the openings.

Sew the strips together.  Serge along one long  side or finish edge by making 1/4 inch hem.  Then make a casing by turning the fabric up about 3/8″.

Now you are ready to sew onto ironing board shape.  I start at the back of the ironing board in the center of the back. First  I turn one of the short ends of the strip under and serge and hem.  Then using a 1/4″ seam allowance I sew the strip, which will turn out to be the band,  good side of fabric together.

When you get all the way around to the back corner before the flat back, stop and adjust what is left of the strip so that it meets in the back with where you started.  Measure how much is needed to turn and hem the end of the strip so that it meets up with where you started.  You are just meeting up, not sewing together.  Then cut or fold under accordingly and hem.  Then go back and sew that last little bit around the corner and meet where you started.

Now you will need to run cording through your casing, I use a safety pin, you can also use a bodkin if you have one.  You just fish the cording through like elastic for a waist band.  I use slippery cording, you can get it at most fabric stores.  Hobby Lobby carries quite a selection in their ribbons and trims section.   My cording is 3 or 4 years old, I just keep re-using it, It doesn’t really match the fabric I used this time, but, it does its job!

Now you are ready to put on your cover, ideally the shape of your ironing board was traced so well that it fits like a glove over your old cover, the seam of the casing strip trims the edges, notice I said ideally 🙂

The nose is the most important thing to fit properly.  place the nose and if some one is available have them hold it.  Then go to the back, cross the cording strings over each other and begin to tighten.  This will bring the casing strip under the ironing board lip, which is what will keep the cover tight and firm.

This is my daughter’s first attempt at a cover, she was a little big on the ironing board shape tracing.  It could have been fixed by a bigger seam allowance but, I didn’t see it until she had it on the ironing board.  It works fine, just a little less fitted than I like.  Good for her first time!

Bright!  Our cousin gave us this fabric, cheery is nice for an ironing board cover.

I see my sleeve board  on the side there needs recovered too:-)

Hope this is helpful.

Crab apple jelly…

29 Sep

This week we harvested our crab apples.  We found some trees on our property and replanted them in the front yard.  I thought they were apples because of the blossoms.  As they grew, they turned out to be crab apples.  I had visions of apple sauce and apple butter for the winter.   Alas, crab apples.

Well what can you do with crab apples?  We decided to “try” crab apple jelly.

We had fun harvesting…every body helped and even a couple of little boys we were watching for the day.

We have four little trees and they yielded this much…

I’d say about 1/3 bushel…

Very pretty…

I have never made jelly before, because jam is easier…  But as a little girl I always thought apple jelly was yummy so we gave it a try.

To get juice to make the jelly

We stemmed and deflowered the apples, then cut them in half.

Then put them in a pan and covered them with water.

Then brought to a boil and simmered for about 1/2 hour.

Then got some unbleached muslin from the sewing room, lined a strainer with it and put the strainer in a pan to catch the juice and poured the hot apples into the strainer lined with muslin.

This gives you a nice clear apple juice in the pan.  Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and wanted to HELP to juice out and so brought the muslin out of the strainer and squeezed my apples to extract some more juice.  That is a no no.

It makes cloudy juice.  Not gorgeous, clear, gem like jelly.  Live and learn.

We were told by a friend that apple jelly if cooked long enough doesn’t need pectin.  So we just measured our juice, we only got 5 cups of juice.  We don’t like to add a lot of sugar, the recipe called for 4 cups of sugar.  We added 3.  Then began cooking the sugar and juice mixture.  Again, I became impatient..I had two sewing orders, one quite large that needed shipping on that day so I didn’t wait for it to cook long enough.  I whipped out some Certo Liquid pectin, to help the jelly along and put the hot jelly into jars.  We just inverted the jars for a few seconds and then turned them upright and they sealed beautifully.

I got 6 pretty little jars of crab apple jelly.  A little cloudy but a pretty color!

Now the bad news, it didn’t jell for me.  Why?  I didn’t use the required amount of sugar.  So, what I can do is…

A.   Have 6 beautiful jars of crab apple syrup for pancakes this winter, or

B.   Open the jars and cook down the jelly longer which is what they did in the old days, and have maybe 5 beautiful jars of crab apple jelly.

I was  shooting for crab apple jelly so, I think I’ll do plan B.

It does seem a shame not to just pick these gifts off the tree and eat them.  We did a little of that.  But with winter coming  jelly will be nice to have around.

Today cooked the jelly again and now it is set!!!

It turned out a deeper color, very red.  Hard to believe it is the same jelly!  But it only yielded half of what I started with, and it is very sweet!  Next time I’ll be more patient.  Less multi- tasking.

Pacific Silver Cloth…

21 Jun

This is a new thing to me and I just wanted to let you all in on it.  There is a fabric called Pacific Siver Cloth.  I had a contact from our web site asking if I could make some bags out of it.  I must admit, I had never heard of such a thing!  I have to say, I thought, “what is it? Some sort of bathing suit material?”  🙂

What it is:  A brown cloth, resembling flannel, that has been treated with a liquid solution containing real silver particles, miniscule, but real.  It is brown because when silver tarnishes it turns a dark color…..

What is it’s purpose?  You store your silver in it and it retards tarnish.  You have to polish your silver much less or hardly at all.  Very cool.  I have a tea service from my grandmother I would like to try it with.

The customer wanted to make sure I got the real thing, there are phonies.

There was some on Amazon but I got this from some one who actually makes it in Texas, The company was called, Silver Guard.   They were almost $3.00 cheaper per yard than Amazon.  They also sell different silver keepers that they make. The woman was very helpful, at first I didn’t order enough, and had to order more, then she explained some sewing tips to me. I was very happy with their customer service.  And their yards of fabric were always a little over which I appreciate!

Here is their website;

I thought their ready made silver keeper  prices were reasonable, but the man contacted us to custom make him some strange sizes.  And I am so thankful he did, it was a good job for us.

Now for a little sewing tip:

The picture below shows the 2 sides of the fabric.  The  fuzzy side or the side with nap, is the treated side.  The flatter side which would normally be thought of as the wrong side of the fabric is what shows on the out side of the protective bags because the treated side is best against the silver.  So, Nap, when you see it on a pattern, is the fuzzy side.  Nap matters, it has an up and a down.  You smooth your hand over the nap and you can see the fabric will have a different sheen, or the color may even look lighter or darker, this happens with corduroy, velvet, sometimes, terry cloth etc.   When working with a fabric with a nap you must consider if you need more for all your pattern pieces to fit, because you don’t want to flip them. Or you will look like you used two different fabrics for your project that you didn’t want to look that way 🙂

The top is the nap side, the inside of the bag.  The bottom is the outside, sort of dull looking.  But this is just to store silver trays.

The customer asked for a monogram, we e mailed some choices and he picked this font.  Makes the drab bag look a little more classy!  Then we used an ivory cord for the draw cord.  I do prefer making pretty dresses, but, work is work right?  I thank God for His provision!


Shortening a curtain…

31 May

Just a quick tip…

A friend asked me to shorten shower curtains for her.  She thought she needed a serger to hem it and she doesn’t have one.    The good news is when there is enough room and you have a straight curtain, it is one of the easiest things to do with your sewing machine and a few tips 🙂

1. When you know the length you want, mark it with a pin.

2.  Using a seam gauge or ruler you measure from the place you want the hem to be to the existing hem.   If it is over 6″  just cut some off.  If not you lay your curtain on your ironing board wrong side facing you .

Below is a picture of a 6″ seam gauge if you haven’t seen one, they can be purchased on the notions wall at your fabric store….

3. Start at the end and take the measurement you got in step 2.  set your gauge to  that measurement.  For example..2.5 inches.

4. Lay your gauge on the curtain with the old hem facing toward you and the pinned hem facing away.  The curtain will be wrong side up to you but the hem turned up will be the right side of the fabric facing up to you.  Let the bulk of the curtain hang off the ironing board between you and the board.

5.  Go along from right to left, if you are right handed… press a crease at the designated length you need.  This crease will be your new hem line.

6. Go to your cutting surface or just stay at your ironing board and cut off the unneeded fabric.  To determine how much to cut off I use the length of the former hem.  What the manufacturer of the curtain used.  In my friends case it was about 5/8″ .    Double that, so you have fabric to turn under. So, 1 1/4″ .   Now you can eye it or use your gauge and go along and cut off the unneeded fabric containing the old hem.  You are measuring from your newly ironed in crease line.

7.  This is how her curtain looked after I cut the old hem off.

The stripe in the fabric makes it a little difficult to see, but down by my thumb you see the crease ironed in and my cut edge.  I eyed this one.

8. Now for a beginner you can turn 5/8″ from your cut edge and press wrong sides of fabric together.  Pin if desired all along the hem.     If you are more comfortable you can just go to your machine and turn under and sew as you go.

9.  You already have your other crease line so, actually you will fold your new crease line over once and then over again in toward the first hem marking crease line.

10. Now you have an enclosed edge.  And are ready to stitch…

There are two schools of thought on how to stitch,

1. some say- stitch with the hem up facing you so you can see what you are doing.  This is a great way if your machine has good bobbin tension and your bobbin seam looks as good as your top seam.   I haven’t always  had that so I adopted this second way.

2. I have always top stitched.  I trust my measurements and the seam allowance I choose.  for 5/8″ I would choose 1/2″ or so for a seam allowance.  The top stitching always seems to look better to me.

Do what makes you most at ease at your work and what will give you the best result.

I hope this helps!  This simple tip takes quite a bit of explaining but once you get the idea and practice a few times you’ll be so glad you know the iron in the new hem trick!!

Off to life…Chrissi

Machine Applique’ 101 A tutorial ….

26 May

Applique’ is a good way to add a theme to your clothing and household items.   It is very simple to accomplish.  Especially if you are not a perfectionist!

This is our little lady bug applique with hand embroidered antennae and button embellishment.

For this tutorial, a customer wanted a butterfly on the front of her top.  I gave Victoria some different views I would like to see and she drew some up for me.  They were nicely detailed, but since this is machine applique’ I had to simplify her designs.  These are what she came up with.  Well, actually these are my modifications.  Hers were much more real looking!

When the customer decides what she wants, I’ll show you the stitching.

Supplies for machine applique’;

tracing paper ( or any other paper to draw your pattern ), pencil, eraser!, scissors to cut paper,  scissors to cut fabric, fabric, heat and bond ( a two sided fusing medium), stabilizer, thread, sewing machine, blue wash away marker for detailing, fray check,  hand sewing needle, possibly small crochet hook….

O.k. She picked the paisley butterfly…but larger than our sample. So, I cut out a larger one and added the little blue marker wing lines for detail..

Now it is time to trace and cut out heat and bond for the positioning of the applique on the base garment, or project.  Be sure to flip your design over to wrong side to trace heat and bond.  You want the glue side to be against the back of your design.  Since you trace on the paper side you have to flip it.

Next we trim so none of the sticky stuff gets on our iron or ironing board, and we fuse the glue side to the back of the applique’ .

Next we peel the paper off the fused piece and it leaves the glue film on the applique and we are ready to position and fuse the applique’ to our base garment, after fusing there is no pinning, no worries, just carefully sewing around your applique…

Now we have another preparatory step:  Stabilizer for the back of the design so your satin, or zig zag stitches and your design lay nice and flat.

I have graduated to iron on, wash away, tear away stabilizer by Floriani, in the past I have also used extra tissue paper from my patterns, (kind of slippery), Also paper towels, not bad, just hard to clean up and get out of stitches.  The point is to have nice flat, even stitches.  When pulling and tugging to get your home made, cheap stabilizer out you damage your stitches, it just becomes frustrating.  So, I invest in the stabilizer.  That said, there was a day that stabilizer just wasn’t in the budget.  It’s o.k. to be creative, just know you must take your time when removing it  and might possibly need to  carefully use scissors.

…Back to our applique, the above picture shows the stabilizer ironed on the back of the garment behind the design.  Always make your stabilizer larger than your design, you want stabilizer under your stitches which are bigger than your design.

You can see slightly how much taller than my design the stabilizer is, because I need  to make my antennae.

In this next picture observe the top right corner….

It is not nice and flat….

When I turn it over to see why…  I see I ran off of my stabilizer,  I am going to press and let this go because it is a small section and pressing is helpful.  But, You can see why I am stressing the importance of stabilizer 🙂

Now, if you look close you can see the threads at the end of the stitches.  Don’t cut them.  It is good to leave yourself a little more than I did when you take your work off the machine, but, what we want to do is pull the threads through to the back side of the applique’ and tie them off with their bobbin thread.

This can be accomplished two ways: 1. In the above picture I found the top thread and gently pried it with a pin from the back side, checking in the front that the tail was getting shorter to make sure I had the right thread…. Or 2.  Leaving a longer top thread, you can actually thread a needle with the thread tail, because it is long enough, and put the needle through the last stitch.  This is much easier, but sometimes, if you’re like me, I am hurrying and forget. 🙂  Better to be slower at this!

Now ..below I show using a small crochet hook ( like a 2.5 mm)  to help me tie my knot, because I didn’t leave my threads long enough.  Confession:  I used my machine thread cutter and it just leaves me about a 3/4″ tail which is wonderful in most cases, just not this one.   Note:  try to tie 2 or 3 knots for durability.

All right moving on.. Just about finished!


Here is the butterfly attennae and all.  See my longer threads?  It is good to learn from our mistakes!!  All I need to do now is put all these threads to the back and tie my knots. On these ones I was able to use the needle method.  It was a dream!  Then I carefully tear away my stabilizer and moisten my design to erase the blue marker and dissolve the rest of the stabilizer and voila!!  A butterfly embellished top!

This customer had some ideas and asked me to make this outfit up for her.  She sent me some pictures, measurements and this is what we came up with.  I hope she likes it.  It is definitely summery!

Happy applique’ing!


A helpful tool…

6 May

When cutting patterns out there are so many markings to make.  When I learned to sew we used pins, chalk, sometimes even pencils or pens.  Those are great when the marks will be hid or with easily washable fabric.  Also when you are sewing for yourself and you can keep secrets 🙂  Maybe you all have heard of the wash away marking pen but if you haven’t I would be remiss to not let you know of it.  We use  Mark B Gone, it comes in blue for lighter fabrics and in white for darker fabrics. 

 It is wonderful for marking lines when doing a bit of shirring, or adding double ruffles to a garment, or trims. 

Also, when you hand embroider you can actually draw your design with it.  So, you see the possibilites!  When your design is done you dampen the marked area with a wet cloth, or we sometimes spray with a water bottle when the fabric doesn’t have a lot of sizing in it.   If the marker is not easily seen when the project is done, don’t worry about it, just use it or wear it and then in the first washing it will B Gone 🙂   Happy Sewing! Chrissi