Can You Sew By Hand?

Can you sew by hand

Hand-sewn Pirates of the Caribbean costumes

You’re all set to finally start work on that project you saw in the craft magazine a few months back. You pull out the issue and peruse the starting instructions only to realize they require a sewing machine that you don’t have. So you wonder, can you sew by hand instead?
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12 Things Every Crafter Can Identify With…

12 Things Every Crafter Can Identify With...The more a person crafts, the more they realize, there are some things that are just a part of crafting life. While crafting is for the most part a very pleasant experience, there are a few things that strike a chord with those who create. Here are a few things that almost every crafter can probably identify with… starting with the fact that those of us who have used glue guns, can attest that they will indeed burn off one’s finger prints…
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Renaissance Fortune Teller Costume Tutorial

Renaissance Fortune Teller CostumeThis Renaissance fortune teller costume requires a little bit of sewing on the over skirts and sequins, but much of the rest of the costume base can be picked up for a few dollars in a 2nd hand shop. Continue reading

Kahlan Amnell or How to Make a Medieval Sorceress Costume (Confessor Dress)

How to Make a Medieval Sorceress Costume (Confessor Dress)This dress works great as a sorceress costume, but is actually based on the mother confessor dress from the Legend of the Seeker show. Continue reading

How to Replace a Zipper Using a Regular Presser Foot

replace a zipperYou can easily replace a zipper on a coat or other garment using an ordinary presser foot on a sewing machine. Continue reading

How to Make a Shag Rag Rug from Old Shirts Easily

Shag Rag RugA shag rag rug is the perfect way to use up old shirts or other rag material you might have laying around the house. Continue reading

Duct Tape Mannequin Tutorial

duct tape mannequinA duct tape mannequin is an easy and inexpensive way to make a sewing mannequin. All it will cost you is a pair of pants, a shirt, and a couple rolls of duct tape. Continue reading

How to Make a Super Easy Basket Liner

Basically this a tutiorial for how to use the hemmer foot attachment on a sewing machine, but since it’s no fun if you’re not actually making something, we’ll be making a basket liner. Since it’s just hemming straight lines with no corners, it’s definitely one of the easiest things to make when you’re first learning the hemmer foot. Once you got that down, you can use the hemmer foot for more difficult things. The hemmer foot is so much easier than turning the hem by hand and the hemmer foot gives it a much thinner, more precise hem. The machine and the hemmer foot do all the work. You just have the feed the material through the scroll on the hemmer foot.

A basket liner is nice because it always comes in handy. Anytime you want to spruce up what you’re setting in a basket, a nicely hemmed peice of calico will do the trick. We use these in all our baskets on our produce stand and on our tables at the market. They really add a cute touch to everything.

How to Turn a T-shirt into a Dress, Part 2

Here is part 2 of the tutorial. This is the fun part where it really starts looking like a dress. Adding a bit of bias tape to the bottom gives it a nice finishing touch.

How to Turn a T-shirt into a Dress, Part 1

I had a bunch of extra material lying around from some curtains I’d made, so I sewed them to the bottom of a T-shirt to make a child’s sundress. It’s a fairly quick and easy sewing project if you like to sew without doing much cutting. (And the small scraps are excellent for crazy quilts.)

How to Make a Hemp Fabric Shopping Bag Part 1

Hemp is one of the strongest most eco-friendly fabrics on the planet. The hemp used in this project came from (Sorry, the sound in this one is rather poor after the intro)

How to Make Simple Curtains Part 1: Cutting

Here’s my first sewing tutorial. It’s a set of fairly easy curtains that are a good project for a beginner. The curtains are thin to avoid blocking too much light from the window. I did this tutorial in 2 parts so it wouldn’t be such a long video: cutting the material and then sewing the material. I’ve never taught anyone other than myself how to sew, so I don’t know if I’m being clear or confusing for others. If anyone has any suggestions for improvement, they’d be greatly appreciated.

T-shirt Dress

I had a bag of extra t-shirts lying around, so I had either the option to cut them up and make a rug for my bedroom floor or try out a dress idea I had. I went with the dress idea, but as often happens, I gave away the finished product before taking a picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination for this one.

Most kids have a T-shirt or two that they don’t wear very often. These unused garments can be put to good use in this project. To begin this dress all you need is a simple T-shirt, a piece of material around 2 yards long and one inch wider than the desired height of skirt. Any type of light material such as calico or homespun will do nicely. Choose a well fitting T-shirt, not skin tight, but not too loose and baggy either. (As an alternative for weather changes, a long-sleeved T-shirt or a turtleneck could be used in colder months, and a tank top can be used for hotter summer months.)

The T-shirt makes up the top portion of the dress, all you will have to do is make and attach the skirt. To form the skirt, sew the two ends of the fabric together. Next you will need to make box pleats along one of the edges (don’t cut the bias off the top edge, it will keep it from unraveling as you pleat it). Run a set of stitches through the edge of the skirt, about an inch from the top. Each stitch should be about an inch wide, with an inch in between each stitch. This is best done by hand. Next run a second row of stitches exactly like the first row, an inch below the first one. Do not tie off the thread ends on either row.

Pull the ends of the thread on both rows tight, creating gathers in the fabric. Pull them up until the pleated opening is the same width as the bottom of the T-shirt. Turn the skirt inside out. Turn the T-shirt upside down, but leave it right side out. Slip it inside the skirt so that the bottom of the shirt is touching the top of the skirt. Sew the skirt to the shirt.

Turn the entire project right side out. The skirt and T-shirt should now be fully connected forming a complete dress. Hem the bottom of the skirt to finish the garment.

The fabric chosen for the skirt can make this dress fit into any season depending on the pattern. Calicoes can be good for any time of the year. Floral patterns hearken to the warm, sunny days of spring and summer. Brightly colored fall leaves or pumpkin pattern fabrics would make cute autumn or Halloween dresses. And fabrics that include poinsettia flowers or evergreen trees would work well for the winter months and holidays. The possibilities are practically limitless.

Overlock vs. Sewing Machine Thread

I do a lot of mending on my clothes, probably more than I should. I routinely keep mending clothes long after they’ve attained the status of rags. More than once my mother has said she will pay me to just buy a new shirt, but hey, you really can’t replace a favorite, so I keep on mending.

In my long mending history I have used all kinds of threads and found that some work better than others. Waxed quilting thread (aside from being the greatest innovation in quilting since the needle!) is actually quite useful for mending as it never twists up like unwaxed thread. It can be a little stiff to work with when trying to mend holes, however, so it’s best used on bigger rips.

Recently I stumbled onto the wonderful world of overlock thread. What really caught my attention was the fact that a spool of overlock thread cost the same as a spool of regular thread, yet was about 3 times as big as a spool of regular thread. I took one home and decided to try it.

I quickly realized that overlock thread is definitely thinner than all-purpose thread, so using it on a sewing machine would be out of the question (not to mention the fact that it would be very difficult to fit the huge spool on the machine spikes). Mending, however, is a different story.

Whereas a sewing machine only sews single threaded (at least in the case of the bobbin), when I’m mending, I always bend the thread in the middle and sew with the two layers. Therefore the thinner overlock thread is plenty thick enough when doubled up. In short, if you mend by hand and use the double thickness method, you can get three times the thread for your mending buck by using overlock thread. Just don’t use it on a regular sewing machine, or you may find your project literally “bursting at the seams.”

Thrift Store Sewing Material

I’m big on recycling, no matter what it is, so one of the things I try to do when I’m sewing is use as much salvaged or recycled material as possible. When I say recycled material, I’m not referring to material that has gone through a recycling process, rather I’m referring to the vast quantities of unwanted clothing that people get rid of every day. Rather than buying new material, getting it from a thrift store is a way to recycle. Not only that, it can also be a great money saver.

At first glance, sewing material in a thrift may not be obvious, but upon closer inspection, it is revealed that everything in the thrift store is material, albeit in a preformed garment. This allows for double convenience. One can either purchase a large item of clothing with the intention of cutting it up to use as material, or the actual garment itself can be used as a starter for something else.

In my area there is both a Salvation Army and a Volunteers of America, so the selection of “material” is wonderfully large. I recently found a huge long sleeved T-shirt with a rather ridiculous picture on the front side (probably the reason it was in the thrift store in the first place!) for a new costume pattern I was trying out. While the hideous front was useless, the entire backside and the large sleeves were prime for the taking. The thick knit material would have cost a lot more in a regular fabric shop, but I was able to purchase it for only 50 cents, which was great as I didn’t have to worry about wasting money if my experiment didn’t work out.

Even better was the white linen tablecloth I found to make a confessor’s dress for the Renaissance festival. I had been looking in the thrift store for a white dress to use as a base, but as long-sleeved dresses are rather scarce to come by in the summer, I had no such luck. It was not long, however, before I found myself in a section with sheets, blankets, and a white linen tablecloth. I ended up getting for $4 at a thrift store what would have been around $20 of linen at a regular fabric store, and as an added bonus, the edges were already finished, so I didn’t have to worry about them fraying. I already had a black tank top and leggings to wear under it, and I was able to get the sleeve trim and lacing for the costume for a $1 at JoAnn Fabrics, bringing the total cost of the dress to $5.

As for finding clothes that can be used as starters, a simple blue dress was the basis for my cousin’s costume. The gown itself was already sewn, all I had to do was add a few ribbonsto the sleeves and the front to make it look “Renaissancy.”

Naturally there are many times when a visit to a traditional fabric shop is necessary, when a certain color, type, or size of material cannot be found in a thrift store. However, it is always worth the time to look in the thrift store first. As an added benefit, purchasing material from a thrift store like the Salvation Army or Volunteers of America supports the organizations that help people. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf

Hoopskirt Making

A hoopskirt is essential for civil war reenactment costumes and some Renaissance costumes. It can also be used to give fullness to a wedding dress. While premade hoopskirts are available, it is much more cost efficient to make your own.

You will need:
2 flat strips of metal, no more than 2 inches wide. Should long enough to make hoops 120″ and 100″
Long pieces of scrap fabric
Strong yarn or string
Needle and thread

This is a 2-tiered set of hoops, and is fairly easy to make. To begin, you will need some long, flat strips of metal. For my skirt I found some discarded strips that had previously been used to bind stacks of lumber. I have also seen such strips in hardware stores such as Lowe’s.

Bend one strip into a circle, measuring it to be 120 inches around. Duct tape the two ends of the strip together. Wind duct tape around the entire strip to prevent it from rusting and staining the gown. (If your strips are made of no-rust metal, you can skip this step). Make a second hoop 100 inches around. Duct tape the ends together, and wind the entire strip with duct tape.

Cut 5 strips of fabric about 4 feet long and 2 inches wide. Tightly sew the the ends of these five strips to the 120″ hoop, evenly spacing them around the hoop.

Cut another strip about three feet long, and tie around your waist, making a sort of belt. Tie the free ends of the five strips to this belt, evenly spacing them. Adjust the height of the five strips until the hoop is several inches above the ground. Untie the belt from your waist, making sure the five strips stay tied to it.

Cut off any excess from the five strips. If you have a mannequin, put the hoops on it. If not, have a friend volunteer to wear the hoops for a moment. Take the 100″ hoop and hold it about a foot and a half above the bottom hoop. Run a piece of yarn through each of the fabric strips and tie them tightly to the 100″ hoop.

If your gown has a thick skirt, the hoop forms won’t show through the dress. If they do, add a petticoat beneath the hoops. This is what the finished product looks like (I sewed my skirt to my hoops for convenience, so I don’t have a picture of just the hoops).
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf