Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

To finish the edges of a blanket or saddle pad, I use bias binding. This can be purchased pre-made at any fabric or craft store, in varying widths, folds and colors:

While it’s convenient to purchase, pre-made bias has it’s downsides. It can be expensive, especially if you’re using a lot of it. You are also limited when it comes to colors. I am a bit obsessive about things matching, and store bought bias simply doesn’t come in the same exact colors as my fabrics. Patterned bias exists, but again, you’re limited to what’s available.

So I learned how to make bias tape myself.

There are dozens of better tutorials online explaining how to do this but since I make my bias specifically for model horse tack, I thought I would share my process with you.

Here are the tools I use:

  • Fabric of choice
  • Large cutting mat – you’ll need one if you’re using a rotary blade
  • Rotary blade (sharp scissors work too but this thing is SO much faster and smoother!)
  • Ruler (mine is huge but a smaller one can work too)
  • Bias tape maker – these come in different widths and styles. I’ve used this one the most.

You’ll also need an iron and ironing board.

To put it simply, bias tape is made by cutting a diagonal strip from your fabric. Here’s a square piece of fabric to illustrate.

If you tug on both corners of your fabric, you’re going to feel it stretch better than if you tug on the top and bottom. This is where you’ll cut your strips from. The stretch helps the fabric go around curved edges easier.

Stretchy!

No stretch 😦

Start by taking one corner of your fabric, then fold it diagonally to meet the other side. You want a 45° angle here. Unless your fabric is a perfect square, it’s not going to fold in half exactly.

Pardon the carpet. I cut everything on the floor because I don’t have a table big enough to work on XD

Iron this fold down, then open up the piece again.

Cut along the fold line – you’ll have two fabric triangles to work with now. I tend to use whichever is larger first, as I can get a longer piece of tape from it.

Next, I’ll measure 1 inch from the edge and slice off a strip.

These strips are ready for sewing! I always cut more than what I need.

My method for sewing on bias has changed, so I no longer fold it. I was using double fold bias for nearly everything for a few years, and that was made with a metal bias tape maker. These come in different widths and are super handy for quickly making folded bias.

I get the 1 inch measurement from using this tool as it was required for the double fold. (each size is different- they do come with instructions!) To make the tape, feed one end through and anchor it down. (I pin it to the ironing board) Slide the tool along the strip, ironing down the fold as you go.

Fabric can (and will) behave differently sometimes – these two strips were made the same exact way but the blue pressed much more nicely. They can both be used this way though, so it’s not a problem.

If you don’t have a tape maker, you can still create the fold by hand. First, fold the entire piece in half and iron it down. Open this up, then fold in one edge to the center line and iron it down. Repeat for the other side.

So, now that your tape is cut, what do you do if it’s not long enough for your project?? I always try to use one piece of tape for the project I’m working on, but sometimes it’s necessary to join two pieces together. This can be a little confusing at first.

Start by laying one piece of bias down, with the good side facing up. Take your second piece and lay it on top (wrong side up) so the pieces are perpendicular to each other. (if your tape is folded open the folds up first)

See the square? You’re going to sew diagonally across this, from the top left corner to the bottom right.

If you’re not sure, pin the pieces together first, then open up the strip. This is what it should look like:

After sewing, cut off the excess, and press flat.

Now your tape’s ready to be sewn on!

“Make my blanket now please?”

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Tools & supplies post can be found here

Next up in this “sewing series” of posts – quilting!

I stitch all of my english saddle pads on my sewing machine. Yes, pre-quilted fabric does exist. There is a really nice in-scale material that a lot of tack makers use, however, I’ve only seen it for sale from overseas websites, and it’s quite expensive to have shipped to me. Also, you are limited to what colors it comes in, unless you want to get into dyeing fabric yourself. As far as I know prints don’t exist? I could be wrong of course.

So the main reason I quilt it all myself is for the freedom to use whatever color I want, or whatever print I want. Also, I wanted my work to look different from what everyone else was using. 😉

This post will show you how I quilt both a large and small square pattern. It’s really simple, and once you get the hang of it you’ll blaze through without thinking. 🙂

I make my English pads from a layer of felt and a layer of cotton, but you can use whatever material you’re comfortable with.

All of my quilting is done before cutting out the shape of the pad. I do this because more often than not, the layers will shift as you sew them together. This could really mess up the shape of my pad if I cut it out beforehand.

To start, sew a diagonal line starting at one top corner. If you like, you can draw this in with chalk and a ruler. (it will not go corner to corner unless your fabric piece is a perfect square)
Take your time with this line – this will be your guide for the remaining stitches.

Instead of using measurements, I use the foot of my sewing machine to determine how far apart to keep my stitching.
Here’s how I position the fabric for the small quilted pattern. I want my “guide line” to be in the center of the left side of the foot.

When sewing the second line, I keep my eyes on that guide line to make sure it remains in the center.

Success!

This process is repeated over and over again, until the entire piece is covered with diagonal lines.

Next, you’re going to do the same exact thing, but in the other direction. Starting at the opposite top corner, sew another diagonal guide line. Take your time with this one too. You want this line to be straight and perpendicular to the previous stitching.

Continue just as before, until the entire piece is covered. This piece is ready to be cut now.

The larger square pattern is created the same exact way. The only difference is the distance between the stitching. Just like before, I use the sewing machine’s foot to measure the distance. In this case, I try to keep the edge of the foot around 1/8 of an inch from the guide line.

Completed!

Don’t be discouraged if your squares aren’t quite square! My earlier pads never were. It’s taken a lot of practice to get my quilting consistent. (and sometimes it still isn’t, shhh!)

If you’re having trouble, it’s perfectly fine to draw in your quilting lines beforehand, and use those as a guide for sewing. You can experiment with different sizes and patterns too. After all, real saddle pads come in many different styles!

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Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot of sewing. What started as making stuff for my models led to a full-time job for a linen company as a mender/seamstress. (I’ve since then taken over another position with the company, but still sew when we’re short-handed, which is often… but that’s off topic…)

Also, ~disclaimer~ I’m entirely self-taught and am not a “pro” by any means. I have so much to learn and am always looking for ways to improve. Most of the skills I’ve learned are very basic, but I’ve gotten comfortable with them because of the number of hours I’ve spent using a machine. Those hours have actually been the most valuable thing I’ve been able to apply to miniature work. It takes some time to get comfortable with a sewing machine, but if you keep at it, you’ll begin to see improvement. The same could be said for any skill!

Even though practice is the #1 tip I will give anyone, I also want to share some other things I’ve learned over the past few years. This is (hopefully!) going to be a series of posts.

And no, a free pattern and tutorial for a saddle pad/blanket/etc won’t be happening on this blog. What I will share can still be applied to your projects though. It’s taken me years to develop my patterns, and like I said, hundreds of hours working a sewing machine, so please respect that.

First things first – tools and supplies!

Machine

I sew on an old Sears Kenmore. It’s a workhorse, very heavy and solidly built, and can be a total piece of **** until you get to know it. (or it gets to know you…)

Do you NEED a sewing machine to sew for models? No. But it also depends on what you’re going to be doing. Are you going to be making dozens of pony pouches or the occasional blanket? It’s entirely possible to sew everything by hand, but it will take much more time. I rely on a machine for the time it saves and the quality of the finished product. Also, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ve probably seen me complain about my bad wrists. (which, thankfully have gotten better if I don’t overdo it) Hand stitching everything is just not an option for me. In some cases hand stitching is unavoidable, especially on very small pieces or in tight spots. It just depends on the project I’m working on.

If you think you’d like to use a machine, I wouldn’t recommend buying one right away, especially if you’re not experienced with using one. Instead, borrow a machine from a friend or family member if you’re able to. That way if you decide that it’s not for you (I have seen this happen multiple times!) you’re not out several hundred dollars.

As for machines in general, it’s going to come down to personal preference, what you’ll be using it for, and price. I can’t recommend any particular model or brand, and don’t want to because personal preferences vary so much. That said, I’m much more drawn to non-computerized machines with basic stitches. It seems like new machines are built with plastic parts instead of metal, which reduces the weight, but it makes me wonder about durability in the long run. I’ve also noticed that many machines have built in computers, which some people love and others hate. I’m not familiar with these but they also make me wonder about durability.

If you’re shopping for a new machine, definitely do your research first. Reviews on Amazon can be very helpful, as well as on Youtube. If you can, stop in a quilting/sewing shop and ask for opinions too. I want to say that some stores sell refurbished machines, which might be an excellent option for you as well.

Favorite Tools

These are the tools I regularly use in my sewing kit:

  1. Pins and pincushion
  2. Assortment of needles of all sizes. It’s nice to have very small ones and at least one large one with a large eye.
  3. Seam ripper – you will need it. Trust me.
  4. Seam gauge – I use this mainly for sewing bias ends together on blankets and pads. The sliding plastic bit in the center makes remembering specific measurements very easy!
  5. Scissors – I am a bad sewer and haven’t invested in a proper pair of scissors yet. I am especially bad because I use one cheap pair for nearly everything, which is a big no-no when it comes to sewing. The white pair I limit to cutting ONLY fabric though, so I am trying!
  6. A thimble (not pictured but I use this one) – for the longest time I thought thimbles were more of a hindrance than a help. Then I realized that my metal one was just the wrong size. Ideally you want one that won’t fall off your finger when you relax your arms at your side. They also come in different materials and sizes. Personally I use one when I’m doing hand stitching or embroidery, as I use my middle finger to push the needle up through the fabric. I also use one at work to pin packing slips to garment collars – without one my finger splits. And that HURTS.

I also use a large cutting mat, plastic ruler and rotary blade – these I purchased together in a set. I use them mainly for cutting bias strips from fabric. I have a couple bias tape makers too. These are great for making folded bias tape quickly.

An ironing board and iron are also “must have’s” for me. For really small pieces I’ll use an old flat iron. You can laugh if you want, but I swear I get better folds on small pieces like saddlebags with a flat iron than a regular iron!

Misc Supplies

  1. Fabric glue – my favorite is Fabri-Tac. I’ve also got a bottle of E6000’s fabric glue that I’ve been experimenting with.
  2. Fray Check – this stiffens your material so it doesn’t fray. It can darken some fabrics, but it’s nice to have.
  3. Extra bobbins – what size you need depends on the machine you’re using. I buy them in handy little plastic boxes and wind them in whatever color I need.
  4. Chalk and/or a white pencil, soft lead pencil – I use regular chalk to mark lines for quilting, measuring, etc, and use a scrap piece of fabric to rub it off later. A white pencil I use to trace patterns or make marks that won’t be seen, as it’s not removable. I’ll use a drawing pencil with a soft lead for lighter colored fabrics, also for lines that won’t be seen.
  5. Machine oil & lint brush – how often you need to oil your machine depends on how much you use it. More info on that can be found in the machine’s manual. A small brush for removing lint is necessary though. (an old paintbrush will work fine) I sew through a lot of felt so my machine gets full of fuzz often!
  6. Thread – I generally use all-purpose thread as it comes in a bazillion colors. One thing I’ve learned is whenever you buy new solid colored fabric, buy thread to match it. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down with a pretty new fabric only to realize that I have NO thread to match… and that kind of stuff drives me NUTS!

Fabric

I am a fabric addict and can spend an unnecessary amount of time in a fabric shop, looking and wanting everything even if I have no use for it. But since I mostly sew model horse related stuff, I try to limit myself to fabrics that will work in small scale.

I find it best to shop for fabric in person. That way you can get a good idea of the thickness and texture, as well as color. I normally use quilting cotton for blankets and saddle pads, as it comes in every color imaginable and is easy to work with.

For prints, I always try to keep an eye out for small patterns. I love fat quarters (about an 18″ x 22″ piece) for model horse projects. They give you enough fabric for multiple projects but not so much that you end up with a ton of excess.
Buying patterned fabric online is a lot harder because it’s difficult to tell how big the print is. Some sellers have rulers against the bottom of the preview image, so keep an eye out for those.

Buying fabric can be expensive, so I try to watch for sales and coupons I can use. Fabric stores like Joanns also sell remnants, which are small pieces usually from the end of a full bolt. This is a great way to get discounted pieces of different textures -like tulle or stretchy knits- for test projects.
I also look for pieces second-hand in thrift stores. Old or damaged clothing can be cut up and repurposed too.

Resources

  1. Sewing Parts Online – what I love most about this site is the huge selection of replacement parts. Filtering by brand and model number (check the back of your machine if you’re unsure – my model number is on a sticker) shows what’s compatible with your machine. It’s very handy!
  2. Spoonflower – this site allows you to upload an original design to be printed on to fabric. I order my custom fabrics through here. It can be expensive, but it’s an option if you don’t want to print fabric at home. (which isn’t normally washable no matter what the brands claim)
  3. Fabric.com – this site is dangerous if you’re a fabric addict. So many patterns…! o_o
  4. Etsy – I’ve only just started looking for fabric through Etsy and it’s also dangerous. One thing I like is how many sellers offer smaller cuts of fabric (fat quarters, half yards, etc) which isn’t always possible with bigger retailers. Supporting small businesses is awesome too. 😉

That’s all for now! 🙂

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