Friday, March 29, 2013

March Book of the Month: Stitch Savvy by Deborah Moebes

In continuation of our staff's monthly book reviews, I'm excited to introduce you to Stitch Savvy: 25 Skill-Building Projects to Take Your Sewing Technique to the Next Level. This is the latest release from Whipstitch's Deborah Moebes, a fifth-generation crafter and designer. One practical thing I particularly love about the book itself is that it's a hardback with spiral-bound pages that will easily lay flat while opened on your sewing table; and it comes with a disc containing printable patterns and templates, which you can use over and over again. I'm quickly becoming a huge fan of printable patterns - no tracing (my least favorite thing) and no worries about cutting mistakes (not that I ever make any...haha!)

Since Stitch Savvy is all about trying new techniques and pushing yourself to the next level, I decided to try out a little sewing something I've never done before, and recreated my own version of the book's cover project, the metal frame clutch. I used some yellow fox fabric from the lovely Sarah Watts's new Timber & Leaf fabric line (Blend Fabrics) and I'm absolutely in love! I can't wait to take it out on the town, and I will definitely be making more of these.

I've already got my next project from the book cut out and ready to sew - a lap-size version of the Paving Stones quilt in an assortment of blue, green and mint fabrics from my stash.

Other projects on my must-make list from Stitch Savvy? The ottoman slipcover (I have a red faux leather one on which my kids and cat are doing a number), the lay-flat backpack (my daughter would love the pockets for crayons and paper) and the Enchantment Under the Sea dress (won't it be fantastic for hot summer afternoons?)

Deborah was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, so please enjoy some insight to Stitch Savvy directly from the author below!


Shannon Miller: Hi, Deborah! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Let's talk about Stitch Savvy. This is your second book, and it follows the 2010 release of your first, Stitch by Stitch. Are the two related? How is Stitch Savvy different from Stitch by Stitch?
Deborah Moebes: In a lot of ways, Stitch Savvy is a sequel to Stitch by Stitch, in the sense that the projects are designed to pick up where SxS leaves off. Most folks who are new to sewing or who are returning to it after a time will finish the content in SxS and then choose a "track" for themselves, the primary type of sewing they most want to do once they're feeling confident at the machine; some might choose quilting, others will like garments, many will do handbags, that kind of thing. So Stitch Savvy is designed to meet stitchers there, and then lead them to more challenging and skill-building projects. One of the things I love best about teaching sewing, in person and online, is that every single person who sits down at a sewing machine has something new to discover and something new to share--I wanted to make Stitch Savvy a book that would take them from where SxS leaves off, with confidence and excitement about sewing, and build on that to help them see just how many options and opportunities they have with their sewing machines as they grow.

SM: I love that Stitch Savvy is so much more than just a project book. Give us a brief overview of how the book is set up.
DM: Stitch Savvy has five sections, each one dedicated to one "track": home decor, quilting, handbags, sewing for children, and clothing. Then in each "track," there are five projects at increasing levels of challenge, from Level 1 to Level 5. So readers can start at the very first project and work their way through all 25, or they can do all the quilting projects in a row, or all the Level 1 projects in a row. But I also wanted to scoot folks OUT of those "tracks" and challenge them to try things they might not do otherwise, so I added suggested projects at the end of each individual projects that lead to other sewing in the book, like a Choose Your Own Adventure of sewing. I think it's such a fun format, and really great for folks who are working on finding their niche in sewing and nailing down what it is they most want to do with their machines.

SM: What are some of your favorite projects from the book?
DM: I really love the Paving Stones quilt, and think it's such a great place to begin to see how quilts are put together. And I am pretty fond of the Lovie Blanket, which turns out so cute no matter how many times I see it sewn up. The Classy Lady Elbow Bag is pretty great, and based on a bag that I remember from middle school--in a good way, that makes me smile when I see the new version. And of course the photo transfer wall art, which I have hanging in my house now!

SM: You're a busy gal, from running Whipstitch to teaching, traveling, authoring, and of course, your busy family life. How do you manage it all and still have time to sew?!
DM: That's the biggest challenge! I realized a couple of years ago that the days when I don't make time to sew, to really sit at my machine and focus on some project, even a tiny one, are the days when I have the toughest time. It really soothes me, so I make time to sew. I work hard to find that balance, like I think all of us do, and to figure out how to fit in the things that matter most. Having my sewing machine out and set up in a dedicated sewing space that's kid-friendly helps a lot, though!

SM: What's one of your favorite sewing tips for beginners?
DM: Jump in and give it a shot. I tell my students to think of each new project as a prototype, to not expect perfection the very first time, to take it easy on themselves and be willing to learn as they sew, to work through mistakes, and to have faith that as they put in the time, they'll find the skills. Anyone can do this, truly, and the rewards are much greater than just the final product, so enjoy the process of figuring it out and working through the steps and allow your sewing to meet you where you are.

SM: What's coming up for you in the rest of 2013?
DM: I'm refining the different arms of Whipstitch this year, which is daunting and exhilirating, and I'm excited about the new things on the horizon for me. I'm planning on printing my Overmost pattern on paper and offering it in a new format, in addition to the digital format it has been in for the past couple years, and have two new patterns in development. I also have a few new online classes I'm really excited about--including Everyday Handbags this spring and Summer Dresses just as the weather gets really hot--so I have plenty of new video and class content that's being polished. Not to mention all my own in-progress sewing, which includes finishing up the two postage stamp quilts I started for my girls ages ago! If I can meet my sewing goal and actually sew up every project I currently have cut out, I'll feel like 2013 was a giant success. I have a lot of ideas percolating, though, so we'll see how far I get!


Check out Stitch Savvy in the MPC store, and join us in April for our next book review from Sew Beautiful's Editorial Assistant, Jessica!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Celebrate Spring's Arrival with Floral Fashion

Floral prints are a perennial favorite when it comes to spring sewing and fashion trends, and this year is no exception. Floral fashion has been more prevalent than ever on spring 2013 runways, and that trend has carried over into the aisles of fabric stores and right into our sewing rooms. There are a variety of ways you can incorporate floral prints and designs into your own sewing projects. To help you, we've collected photographs of some of our favorite floral-inspired looks from past (and future!) issues of Sew Beautiful. We hope the photos will inspire you to cultivate your own floral favorites this spring.

1. Martha Demere used Lyn Week's "Frannie" pattern to create this green and blue dress from our March/April 2009 issue. Martha cut the collar from the high roll pattern included in "Frannie," but drew an eyelet edge and embroidered it by hand with a tiny blanket-stitched, scalloped edge using blue thread to coordinate with the fabric.

2. Laura Jenkins Thompson designed this revival of her ever-popular "Pascale" pattern in honor of the original design's 10th anniversary last year. Since the Pascale's first appearance on our pages back in 2002, we have featured it over 30 times, attesting to its versatility and popularity. On this version of the dress, which was featured in our March/April 2012 issue, Laura stitched bright yellow sunflowers against a beautiful sapphire blue silk.

3. Khristal Jouett designed this floral tunic using a vintage pattern she purchased at an estate sale, our "Dainty Designs" pattern and a pretty swirl-of-ruffles hem treatment. The dress was featured in our March/April 2011 issue.

4. This version of the "Pascale" was designed by Kathy Dykstra and appeared in our March/April 2012 issue. Kathy paired a floral print with a bright polka dot print for a modern appeal.

5. This adorable little girl's romper will be featured on the cover of our upcoming May/June issue. Designed by Janet Gilbert, this exclusive pattern was recreated from a vintage 1940s silhouette and uses a bright floral print from Liberty's new Classic Tana Lawn collection.

6. Connie Palmer crafted this fun daisy appliqué from ribbon petals. The project will appear in our upcoming May/June issue.

Flowers inspire a variety of other designs and embellishments in our upcoming May/June issue, like a fancy lace flower garden on Debbie Glenn's Italian organdy pinafore, functional flower pockets on the skirt of Trisha Smith's sundress and even a groovy mod flower appliqué from Kari Mecca, queen of whimsy. Pick up your copy of the May/June issue when it hits newsstands in mid-April. And be sure to check out our Spring Fabric Sale now, where you can find beautiful fabrics like Classic Tana Lawn florals as well as solids in cotton and batiste to help you craft all your spring projects.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful
Kathy and Amelia

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Call for Craft Entries!

Hello friends, we know your first love is sewing, but as creative people, we all do other crafts. KP Craft is currently taking submissions for a multi-craft book of short projects. Any craft project that has 2-6 steps, and which has not been previously published, is eligible.

You can read the full guidelines and details, as well as find the submission form at

Enter soon! Deadline for submissions is April 30. Who knows! You may get published!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Master the Art of Punchwork

Wendy Schoen's Punchwork Baby Bonnet

Punchwork is both a pulled-thread stitch and a counted-thread stitch. It is an exercise in creating degrees of whitework. Surface embroidery stitches add interest with shadows and shine, while pulled thread stitches add open areas and shading.

In the how-to below, designer Wendy Schoen will show you how to stitch this elegant technique. The tutorial first appeared in our May/June 2008 issue of Sew Beautiful.

Overview of Punchwork:
Punch stitch is sometimes known as drawn fabric stitch and must not be confused with drawn-thread work, as the threads are not withdrawn. It is more quickly done than drawn-thread work and can be worked in small spaces. Punchwork is sometimes more commonly referred to as "Fil Tiré," which literally translates to "pulled thread." 

A loosely woven linen should be used, as the threads are easily counted and pull together with ease. A linen thread is used in the coarser work and fine cotton on fine linen or linen lawn. When working the stitch, a tapestry needle is used so it will easily slide between the fabric threads without nipping the sides. The size of the needle is determined by the weave of the fabric. The looser the weave, the larger the needle.

The shape of the design is first outlined by the surface embroidery. This surface stitching provides a boundary or outline for the pulled thread area. Creating a boundary is critical, as it defines the edges and provides a place for tying off and traveling to the next row without the carry threads being noticed. 

Once the surface embroidery is complete, the punchwork stitching fills in the fabric between the outlines. These areas are "punched" with holes, simply by pushing the thread apart at equal distances in straight lines, piercing about every third thread - the number depending on the coarseness of the fabric. There is no compensation for very thin or very thick fabric threads, as they are counted as usual. The work is done from right to left and left to right alternately. Start at the widest width inside the design area, working the first horizontal row across the entire width inside the boundary.

Tool Tips:
• I recommend a #28 tapestry, the smallest size available. 

• Thread choices are critical. Only 100 percent cotton thread should be use for pulled thread. The embroidery design here is worked with Floche embroidery cotton. Shadowwork is just lovely when worked with Floche.

• I suggest at least a 70wt thread such as YLI's Heirloom Cotton Thread.

• Try applying beeswax for added stability. For working the grid, a thimble will enable you to stitch with the eye of the needle, therefore increasing your stitching speed a great deal.

• Always use one strand and the #7 between needle for the best results. Surface embroidery may be worked with a #10 sharps needle, if you prefer.

• Do not attempt this stitch without appropriate magnification.

The difficulty of this stitch is defined by the first row of stitches. After the first row is established, all others can be easily rendered. The hands-free hoop is invaluable, as the stitching is predetermined by the grid, and the hoop makes it is easy to stitch with the non-dominant hand. With this hoop, the grid can be worked at lightning speed.

Complete the shadowwork first, then stitch all the other embroidery stitches (surface embroidery) before beginning the pulled-thread work.

Step 1: To tie on, anchor waste knot in such a position that the thread tail can be worked over. Working over three fabric threads, sew a backstitch from A to B.

Step 1

Step 2: To work the next stitch, sew into A, but angle needle to emerge three threads over (A to C). Pull stitch tightly.

Step 2

Step 3: Continue working entire row, using sequence of A to B, A to C. Move to next row by taking a backstitch through six threads (three threads below first row) from top of first row to bottom of second row.

Step 3

Step 4: Begin with the A to B sequence, pulling tightly on every stitch.

Step 4

Step 5: To continue to next stitch, sew A to C, which is three threads over.

Step 5

Step 6: Complete entire grid working the same rows, each three threads down.

Step 6

Step 7: Rotate grid one turn so opposing rows can be stitched in the same manner. Beginning in the upper edge, stitch A to B, using the established holes.

Step 7

Step 8: Stitch A to C to move to next square.

Step 8

Step 9: Complete row and move to next row down, using the established holes for A-B points.

Step 9

Step 10: Completed fil tiré grid. You may tie off in the boundary area along the sides or by tying a slip-knot through two openings on back.

Step 10
For more technique and project tutorials, check out our newly released Sew Beautiful 2008 Collection. Available in both CD and digital download format, this collection features full-sized electronic versions of all six issues of Sew Beautiful from 2008 and includes printable patterns, tips and techniques, how-to articles and more.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful
Kathy and Amelia

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How To: Serger Cover Stitch Pintucks

We have serging on our minds this week! Our newest DVD, Serger Workshop: The Serger Caddy, releases today, and we just wrapped up our Serger I Martha Pullen Teacher Licensing event over the weekend. To celebrate, we'd like to share the following guide for making "mock" folded tucks on your serger. They're fast, easy and look great:

1. Set your serger for narrow cover stitch (middle and right needle), and an extra accessory foot - the pintuck foot and guide finger.

2.  Attach the pintuck foot and guide pin (photo 1). Photo 2 shows the bottom of the pintuck foot. See the groove? 

Photo 1 (left) and Photo 2

3. Mark a line on your fabric for the first tuck. Place the fabric on top of the "guide pin" and under the foot with the mark in between the two needle marks on the foot. Serge (photo 3). 

4. Because the fabric is on top of the "guide pin" and the foot has a groove in the bottom, excess fabric is pulled up between the two cover stitch needles, creating a hump in the fabric (photo 3 - look at the back of the presser foot).

Photo 3

5. To make a second tuck, place the outer edge of the foot against the previous tuck (photo 4). Serge. The second tuck will be a "foot's width" from the first tuck. Repeat for the number of tucks needed.

Photo 4

6. Press all of the excess fabric in one direction. The pressed fold will hide one of the needle threads, creating a mock folded tuck (photo 5). 

Photo 5
For more great tips, check out the Serger Workshop: The Serger Caddy DVD now. Or, pre-order our Serger Workshop: The Sarasota Clutch DVD, where master serger educator Missy Billingsley will show you how to make the fabulous Sarasota Clutch. You too will be a serger master when you discover all of Missy's serger tips and tricks!

Serger Workshop: The Sarasota Clutch includes: 

  • Notions, Cutting and Marking
  • Creating the Tab or Wrist Strap
  • Chain Stitch Gathering
  • Creating the Pockets
  • And more!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Kathy and Amelia

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sew a Wavy Swiss Hem Treatment

Wavy Swiss hem treatment
There are many things to love about the Rose Pascale dress featured on the cover of our March/April 2013 White Issue - from the high yoke and smocking to the cotton pique and gingham piping. But, one of our favorite features is its unique Swiss hem treatment.

This wavy geometric hem helped the Rose Pascale stand out among the smocked samples designer Kathy Dykstra submitted for us to feature in the issue. The wide edging is a series of cutwork loops in a wavy finish - tailor made for the smocking design - and the insertion and narrower edging repeat the loops for added trim appeal. 

Follow our tutorial below for adding this unique skirt trim to any dress:

1. Cut off seam tape next to entredeux on all wavy Swiss looped edging, insertion and straight looped edging.

2. Mark center of one wave valley and cut leaving 1/2 inch for a seam allowance (fig. 1).

Figure 1

3. Since you want wave trim to match perfectly at side seam for a continuous, uninterrupted flow of waves, precut length of trim needed for skirt. Start by pinning marked and cut end of trim to open side seam edge of front skirt. Smooth trim flat all the way across front and back skirt to opposite open end on back skirt. Mark closest center valley to side seam edge. Cut, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Remove trim and fold in half to mark center. Cut two more strips of wavy trim exactly the same. 

4. Reposition trim to skirt matching center of trim on sewn seam of dress. Match bottom edge of loops to bottom raw edge of skirt and pin trim from side seam across front and from side seam across back. There will be a little excess skirt fabric beyond trim when you reach end of trim; this will be cut later. First, zigzag stitch along edge of entredeux. Then, cut front and back skirts from bottom to top to fit width of trim (fig. 2). Removing this small amount will not affect smocking. 

Figure 2

5. Trim excess fabric behind trim to 1/2 inch from stitching. Clip fabric edge every 3/8 to 1/2 inch so that you can press it up away from wavy entredeux edge (fig. 3). Zigzag stitch along entredeux edge once more. Trim off excess fabric next to stitching on wrong side of skirt. For insertion, measure up 1-1/4 inches from highest peak of wavy trim and mark a line across skirt with blue marking pen (see Trim Placement Guide).  

Figure 3

Trim Placement Guide
6. Pin insertion with bottom edge aligned to marked line and zigzag stitch along both entredeux edges. Trim fabric behind insertion along center and press open to expose insertion. Zigzag along each edge once more. Trim excess fabric off next to stitching on wrong side of skirt. 

7. For next two rows of wavy Swiss looped trim, measure up 2 inches from top edge of insertion and mark a line. Mark another line 4-1/4 inches from that line. Pin strips of wavy trim with bottom looped edge matching marked lines. Zigzag stitch along top edge of entredeux on both pieces. This will set waves 3 inches apart.

Finish: Sew side seam with a French seam to close dress. Carefully match skirt trim at seam.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful
Kathy and Amelia