Spaghetti Straps…Let’s make some!

Alot of what we do as seamstresses, is construct items that enhance a garment or upholstery project.

Making spaghetti straps (or straps of any width) or fabric covered tubes falls into that category.

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I borrowed this great tool from a friend of mine years ago. It’s called a Fast Turn.

It has that name because it helps you turn these tubes of fabric right side out in a matter of seconds.

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This one is made by Nancy’s Notions. A less expensive one is found at Clothilde. There’s even this one which is ultra cheap, but I can’t tell from the picture if it works as well. Hey, it might even be better. Anyone?

There are two main components. One is a brass tube and the other is a wire with a squiggly tip at one end and a plastic glob at the other.

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The squiggle tip looks like this:

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Each kit comes with several sizes, so that you can make many different widths of straps or tubes.

You can use the turning technique for anything you are making.

Today, we’ll be making spaghetti straps. The measurements I give you make a perfect spaghetti straps.

If you need to buy fabric to make the straps, you’ll only need to buy 1/8 yard. However, they won’t take up much of that 1/8 yard. You may find that you have small narrow scraps lying around that might work perfectly.

Each strip of fabic will only be 1 1/8″ x 18″. Eighteen inches might be a little long, but you’d rather have them be too long than too short. Right?

So, first cut your strip(s) 1 1/8″ x 18″. I use a rotary cutter and mat, but you can easily do this with scissors if you don’t have the cutter and mat.

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The strip looks really narrow, doesn’t it?

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Good. You have it right.

Now fold it lengthwise, right sides together, and sew down the long edge of it with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Choose a brass tube that will fit into the hole without being too big (tight) or too small (loose).

Insert the brass tube into the hole you just made in the strip:

Push it all the way through the tube of fabric until it sticks out of the opposite end.

Next, slide the coordinating wire (which has the squiggly tip) into the tube.

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Fold over the very top edge of the black satin so it covers the brass hole. Hold it down with your finger.

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Now, slide the wire up through the brass tube and twist it so that the squiggly end comes up through the fabric like this:

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Now, gently pull the plastic end of the wire gizmo. As you pull the wire back through the brass tube, the wire will be bringing the fabric along with it.

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Keep pulling on that wire portion and soon you’ll see the fabric come out of the end

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Once you’ve pulled it all the way out, untwist the wire and gently pull it away from the strap.

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Sew your straps into the dress or camisole or whatever project you’re working on.

Wasn’t that easy?

Fray Block…What is that?

Have you ever tried sewing on fabric that frays and ravels on you? There’s usually a big mess of tangled threads that get in your way. Many store bought garments pop out at the seams because  the seam allowance was very narrow to begin with and the fabric started fraying.

So, let’s fix that.

Have you heard of Fray Block?


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I don’t mean Fray Check:

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I used Fray Check for years, but it always left behind a harsh, crusty, scratchy feel to it and if you used it in a garment where it touched your skin, it would irritate you all day long.

So, I tried Fray Block when a sales clerk at JoAnn Fabrics gave me the tip. By the way, you can buy it at JoAnn Fabrics (the store) or JoAnn Fabrics online .

Begin by poking a tiny hole at the end of the tube. You apply it the same way as you do Fray Check…with the tip of the tube against the fabric. I don’t even squeeze the tube because it comes out faster than you think. So, be prepared!

Try using it on a scrap piece of fabric (especially if what you’re working on is an expensive fabric or is irreplaceable). If you don’t have a scrap, try it on a seam allowance.

You gotta move quickly because if you leave it at one spot too long, it may leak and leave a big puddle on your fabric. Sometimes that puddle can migrate past the seam allowance, so that is why using a scrap is so important until you get the hang of it.

Always put a piece of thick paper behind the fabric you’re working on so it doesn’t leak through and cause you problems.

Do you see the tip of the tube on the upper left side of this photo? I ran the tip along the edge of the fabric. I didn’t move very quickly because I was trying to use the Fray Block with my left hand while taking a photo with my right hand. But you get the idea.

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Sometimes it makes sense to put some of the Fray Block on a Q-tip first and then apply it.

After your test piece has dried (which takes about ten minutes), make sure it looks good to you before you try it on the garment or craft project you are working on.

When it is dry, it should look like this:

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It should be soft to the touch.

You’ll want to store the tube in an upright position so it doesn’t clog the tip. I store mine in my pencil keeper right next to my machine.

Well, there you have it……. A fabulous way to keep fabric from fraying!

Hemming Stretch Knits

Do you have trouble hemming stretchy knits? They can be tricky. Let’s look at the various ways to hem knits so that they don’t stretch out.

Then, we’ll look at some alternatives and see if they work as well.

This dress is a customer’s. Her dog chewed the hemline and she brought it to me to see if it can be salvaged.

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So, I had her try it on with the shoes she will wear with it. I pinned it at the length she wanted it to be. To get that length all around the dress, I used a yard stick and noted that she wanted it 24″ off the ground. So, I put several pins all around the circumference so that I’d have the new hemline even all around.

Then, I folded under the hem along the pin line and put additional pins to hold the excess hem fabric.

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Take out any pins that are directly on the new foldline. Turn the garment wrong side out and press along that fold with the iron set at the correct temperature for the fabric. I always press the hems on the wrong side so that I don’t get a “shine” on the fabric from the iron.

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Turn it right side out again and lay it flat. I put it on the ironing board and make sure the under layer isn’t getting caught underneath it.

I measured the original hemline amount and it is 5/8″ wide. This will be the measurement we use on the new hem.

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Now, we’ll cut 5/8″ away from our new foldline (towards the original hem edge).

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***If you are hemming a T-shirt, do not finish the raw edge by serging it. The reason is that you want the T-shirt hem to stretch so it can fit over your head. If you serge it, you have lost the stretchiness of the fabric. (Technically, you don’t have to finish the edge on a knit fabric as they don’t fray). If you have a cover stitch option on your serger, use that because that will keep the stretchiness in.

Again, since this is a dress and doesn’t need to stretch, I have used a serger to finish the edge.

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Now, you’ll want to pin the hem all the way around. I use a pin about every half inch to every one inch depending on how stretchy the fabric is. The more stretchy the knit, the closer the pins should be.

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See how I pinned the skirt from the right side? I turned it to the wrong side so you can see it from that angle as well.

If you are putting in a double hemline (two rows of stitching runnning parallel to each other), use a double needle. Schmetz makes these and you’ll find them at your local sewing store or online. I prefer the Stretch double needle, but my store doesn’t carry them anymore, so I have been using the regular double needle. There are varying widths between the 2 needles. This one is 4.0:

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Replace your regular needle with this one. You’ll need to add another spool of thread to the second spindle on your machine. Thread both threads together as though you are threading with one. When you get to the double needles, of course, you’ll thread one through one needle and the other thread through the other needle.

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You can see it better here:

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If you are using a single needles, use a “Stretch” needle. These are also available at your local sewing store or online.

Stitch around the hem with the double needle (or the single). Be sure not to stitch over your pins. Take them out just before you stitch over that area or you may break the needle and cause it to get jammed underneath, which is a big mess to fix. Notice, I am stitching at the 1/2″ mark. Since our hem was to be 5/8″ wide, we want to make sure we catch all the fabric in the hem we are putting in. This assures that we won’t miss any of the hem when we stitch.

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So that you can see the stitching lines better, I stitched this same seam on a white knit fabric with black thread. I did not serge this raw edge so that you can see what the seam alone looks like. As you can see on the backside, the double needle creates a seam that allows the garment to keep its stretch.

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You may be wondering if there is another way to put a hem in knit fabrics.

Let’s look:

1. Don’t use fusible web like Stitch Witchery to hold your hem. First, it looks baked on and it doesn’t stretch so that it looks like a piece of masking tape was stuck to the underside. By the way, don’t use masking tape or duct tape either! The gooey film never comes off.

2. If you want the double row of stitching, be sure to get the double needle. It doesn’t look near as professional to sew two single lines of stitching. The double needle makes it look uniform and professional.

3. Be sure to pin the hemline all the way around the garment. Or, you can sew a basting stitch in instead. If you don’t pin or sew a basting stitch, the fabric will bunch up and gather and then you’ll be forced to take out the stitches and start again. Sometimes using a walking foot helps, and sometimes not. Experiment with it on a scrap of fabric if your machine came with one.

4. You can sew the hem by hand. You will want to use this technique when you don’t want the stitches to show at all from the right side.

Ok, I think that about covers it. I hope this has helped you understand the steps involved in sewing on stretchy fabrics.

How To Thread a Serger Quickly

Before we look at How to Hem Stretchy Knit Fabrics, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you a quick way to thread your serger. The post on hemming will cover how to hem with and without a serger.

Until I learned this threading shortcut  myself, it took forever to thread one. Now, it’s a piece of cake.

I have a 3/4 thread serger, but you can adapt this technique to however many threads your serger has. On my serger, two threads are threaded through the needles and two threads make up the loopers. The loopers are hidden inside the machine and you can see them if you open up the bottom portion of your serger. The thread from the loopers make the loops on the fabric that connect with the threads from the needles.

So, to change the thread to a different color, have your serger  threaded already. (If it is not, be sure to read your manual and thread it correctly, the way your manual indicates.) Each machine is threaded differently and most have a color diagram to follow. I open the bottom covers of my machine and the diagram is located on the lower right side.

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I was having trouble threading my machine so that it would serge a nice seam correctly. So, I tried threading the threads in a different order. With my machine, I have to thread the looper that is on the far right first.

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Then, I thread the one that is second from the far right.

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My manual didn’t tell me this important information. So, if you’re having trouble threading your machine, my suggestion is to keep trying different sequences until it works and then write down what you did so you can repeat it next time.

Commercial break: Use one of these long handled pair of tweezers to help you thread your machine. Most , if not all, machines come with them. They are great at helping you reach into tiny places to thread the needles or the loopers.

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Now let’s look at how to thread the serger quickly. (There is no shortcut to threading the serger for the first time, but after that, this technique will save you alot of time threading it in the future).

There is no shortcut to threading the needles, either, but you can thread those fast anyway.  This technique will teach you to thread the loopers quickly. That is the part that used to take me forever!

As you can see, my serger has black thread in it and I am going to change it to a cream color.

First, cut the last two threads (the looper threads), which are on the far right of the machine, about 6-8 inches up from the tension dials.

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(My sewing machine is behind my serger in the last photo, so I hope that doesn’t throw you off.)

Next, cut the thread that comes out of the two needles. Cut it just under the needles:

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In the above photo, do you see the thread tail (or thread chain) coming out of the needle area? Make a mental note of that because we will talk about that in the next few steps.

Now, take off those 4 cones of thread and replace them with 4 cones of the color you plan to use.

Thread all four threads through the telescopic thread stand first:

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Remember the two black threads that you cut 6-8 inches above the tension dials?

You are going to take each one and tie it to the new thread with at least three knots. Make sure you tie at least three knots because you want the threads to stay together for the next step. Tie them tight.

Do you see the old black thread being tied to the new cream one? Do this for both of those black threads:

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Next, set the far right tension dials to zero.

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Gently, pull the old black thread chain (remember the photo above?) until you see the new cream thread coming out of  the serger. To clarify this, you are going to pull the thread chain that comes out of the serger near the needle area. As you pull these black threads, the new cream threads are getting threaded through your machine so that you don’t have to do it manually. The knots that you tied should stay tied all the way through and you shouldn’t have any snags. If you do encounter a snag, check to make sure that your tension dials are set at zero and your needle thread has been cut.

You can see the spot where the black threads are knotted to the cream:

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Sorry, that’s not the best picture, but hopefully, you can see that the black thread is to the left and the new cream thread is on the right.

*Be sure to set the tension dials back to the desired numbers.

Now, thread the two needles, following the diagram, with the corresponding threads.

You can’t tie the new colored threads onto the old threads when it comes to the needles because the knots won’t fit through the eyes of the needles.

You are ready to serge. Wasn’t that easy?

Sergers…Do You Need One?

For many years I lived without a serger. First of all, they weren’t even invented when I started to sew. But even years after they were available, I still hadn’t forked over the money for one. I hemmed (no pun intended) and hawed about the cost and wondered if I’d ever use the thing. After all, my sewing machine could finish an edge just fine, I reasoned.

But on my 39th birthday, my husband proudly set a large box on the table and I opened it to find this:

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He had earned enough bonus points at work to choose a prize from a catalog that featured all sorts of wonderful items. And he bypassed all the toys a guy would like in favor of this serger as a surprise for me. Wasn’t that sweet? That’s my man.

And, boy was I surprised.

And, then I have to be honest. …

I let it sit there  for  months. I was intimidated and didn’t know how to make it work. Probably would have helped to read the manual right off the bat rather than let it intimidate me with the silent treatment.

One day, I sat and looked at the manual and learned how to thread it.

The next day I learned about tension. I watched the video that came with it and learned even more. By the end of the week I had enough courage to actually try it out.

And it’s been a match made in heaven ever since!

So, do you need one?

Well, it depends on what your definition of need is.

I use mine almost every day that I sew. And that’s about 5 days a week.

It does such a beautiful job of finishing an edge. (In this photo, I put the serged edge on another piece of the same fabric so you could see the stitches better).

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It does such a wonderful job of rolling an edge (great for making cloth napkins and certain serged hemlines).

Because I sew for other people, it makes my hems look professional.

That in itself is worth it.

I’ve also used it to finish off a torn edge on towels, rags, and finishing seam allowances on clothing that I make.

So, if you decide to buy one, there are a few options to consider.

First, be sure and get one that has differential feed. Sergers have two feed dogs and differential feed regulates them so that it serges a perfect edge every time. Whether you are serging stretchy fabrics or condensables like georgette and crepe, it serges them flat every time. And, of course, it works great on cottons, polys, silks, linens, denim, and every other fabric under the sun.

If you can, get one that does a cover stitch. This means that you can hem a knit (or other fabric) without the loops going over the edge. Look at a T-shirt like this one:

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This has been done with a cover stitch. See, the underside is nice and finished:

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I have one that has the option of using three or four threads. It’s called a 3/4 thread serger. The three thread option does the rolled hems. The four thread does the rest. For me, that’s all I need.

But, if you like decorative stitches, there are all sorts of combos out there. (3/4/5 thread, 2 thread, 4/5 thread, etc.) There are even machines that will combine a regular serged (flatlock) stitch with a cover stitch to give it an 8 thread look. So, check them out. See what fits your sewing lifestyle and your budget.

There are some sergers that offer a chain stitch. I would love to have this option. It’s the stitch that you see on lots of ready made clothing. It looks just like a chain with “links” on one side and a straight stitch on the other. When you need to do an alteration, you pull on one thread and the whole seam comes out instantaneously. What a time saver!

Let’s talk about tension. At first I was intimidated by the tension settings as each dial is set independently of the other. So, once I figured out the perfect tension for a certain kind of fabric, I wrote it down. The numbers I wrote down represent the dials on the serger (from left to right). With this little system, I don’t have to re-figure out the tension every time I sit down to serge. Of course, your settings may be different on your machine.

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Pretty sophisticated system, huh? I lost this paper for about a year once and I was beside myself. It took moving to another house to find it!

Can you live without a serger?


Can you still hem stretchy knits without a cover stitch?


Can you still construct garments without one?

Yes, but some of my friends construct garments almost entirely with a serger because it stitches and finishes the seam all at the same time.

Do your homework on brands and models. Look at Consumer Reports and similar publications on the subject and see what features you like best. Borrow a serger from a friend or relative and give it a try. Then, visit your local sewing machine dealer and test drive several. Many dealers will let you check one out for a few days. You may have to leave your first born as collateral, but, hey, that might be just what the two of you need!

If buying a new serger is not in your budget, save up for a used one. Check out your local Craigslist and ebay. It may take some patience waiting for the right one to come along, but it’ll be worth it.

I’ve got to say that if something ever happened to my serger, I’d be awfully bummed. It’s become as important to me as my sewing machine. I think once you’ve tried one, you’ll feel the same way!

Cover a Foam Pad..Bench Seat…Final Steps

Today we’ll finish the cushion and then tomorrow we’ll go back to general alterations and gadgets.

Note: If you think you missed Part 2, that was the Piping post.  If you didn’t put piping in your cushion, you only need to follow Part 1 and then this post (Final steps). Just ignore the instructions that have to do with piping.

Now, to begin where Part 1 left off, once your piping is in, it should look like this:

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***Take this piece and lay it over the foam. Make sure it isn’t too big for the foam. This is the time to make any corrections if you need to. You sure don’t want to have to rip the whole thing out and start over. It is ok if it is a bit too small for the foam. That will make a nice snug fit. You don’t want it to be too big. If it is, take off the piping figure out how much bigger the seam allowances should be and then resew it on. Make the same adjustment to the bottom piece.

Now, you are going to sew on the narrow strip that will cover the height of the cushion (or the thickness of it).

Take that narrow strip that will go all the way around the cushion and lay it right sides together on top of the piping. Leave about 3 inches free before you start sewing. Begin sewing in an area that is not close to a corner. I have turned the seam sideways so you can see where I started sewing:

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Stitch all the way around the cushion and stop when you get about 3 inches away from the end. Grab the two ends of fabric and pinch them until they meet and put a pin in that spot like this:

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Now, stitch across perpendicular to the cut edge, from the pin to the other edge of the narrow strip as shown:

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Trim off the excess seam allowance to 1/2″. Open the seam and spread it flat. Then stitch the remainder of the seam:

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This is how it should look from the right side:

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Now, you’re going to stitch the bottom piece of the cushion to this narrow strip. This time, make sure you pin it all the way around the edges to make sure they meet up well. Make sure your corners are matched at the correct points. Stitch all the way around the cushion leaving a wide enough area to get the foam inside. Stitch right over the first stitching using the zipper foot or piping foot again.

This is how it should look from the wrong side:

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This is how it will look from the right side:

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I’m going back to the original cushion that I made for my neighbor since the gold and red fabrics were just samples for you to see the actual sewing.

You need to put the foam inside the cushion next. Because my cushion was so long, this was a two man job. My husband inserted the foam into the cushion. Notice the cushion is still wrong side out. When he pushed the foam all the way into the cushion and matched the corners, my job was to reach into the cushion and hold those two corners and the foam while he turned it right side out over the foam:

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Just keep working the fabric by pulling and shimmy-ing it:

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When you have it turned all the way, you’ll need to hand stitch the opening closed:

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You’re finished! Great job!

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Piping….Let’s Make some!

Let’s Make the Piping today! You can use these instructions for making piping on any project you are working on.

(If you’ve decided not to use piping on your cushion, stay tuned for the instructions on putting the cushion together in the next post to follow.)

You’ll need that cording I mentioned in the How to Make a Cushion Cover..Bench Seat..Part One post. I found some made of cotton in the upholstery section of my local JoAnn Fabric store. It looks like this (top of the picture):

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As you probably noticed, I am switching the fabric that I used yesterday because I realized it is so dark that you can’t see it. Yes, this one is dark too, but I’ll use contrasting fabric and thread and you’ll see it better.






Now take the fabric that you are going to make piping with and fold it at a 45 degree angle. Can you see that I just took one corner and matched it to the opposite side?  (Refer to the above photo).

Now, looking at the photo below, use a straight edged ruler (see through rulers rule!) and  line it up on the folded edge (the diagonal edge of the fabric). Do you see that I lined it up on the 1″ mark? This is so that when I cut it, I will actually get a 2″ strip (because it os on the fold.) That is what I want is a 2″ wide strip. If you don’t have a rotary cutter, go ahead and mark right on the fabric and make a straight line and then cut it with scissors. Otherwise, cut it with the rotary cutter on the mat (not on your countertop or carpet or anything you value!)

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Once you have that strip cut out, move the ruler over to the TWO inch mark  and cut again. (Be careful not to cut at the one inch mark anymore because you no longer have a fold).

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Cut as many strips as you need to get the length for the top and bottom pieces of the cushion. That means for this cushion, I need 204″ for the top and 204″ for the bottom.

You may need to join some strips together to make the total amount you need. To do that, position them like I have them in the photo below:

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Mark a dotted line 1/4″ from the edge as shown. This will become your stitching line. Do you see how the top strip is perpendicular to the bottom strip? That is most important. Next, line up the dotted line to the edges of the strip that is underneath. Now, stitch on that line. (You may want to pin it in place before you stitch.)

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Now, trim off that extra fabric to the right side of the seam so that you have a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Press the seam open and lay it flat:

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You don’t have to have the edges perfect; this is close enough.


Now, turn the strip over and place the cording inside. To clarify, cording is the “string” inside the strip of fabric. Piping is what you call the strip of fabric with the cording inside, all made up. Place the cording down the middle of the strip and fold the strip over the top and pin it.sewing blog 098 Now it has become the piping!






You are ready to stitch the piping to the top piece of fabric. In this photo, the main fabric is solid gold. Leave about 3 inches of the piping unstitched. We need that loose right now so that when we stitch all the way around the fabric, we need to have some left to join the beginning to the end pieces. So, start sewing the piping to the fabric at about halfway down one side. This makes it easier to join the end pieces together later. Use either a piping foot or a zipper foot. This is a piping foot:

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As you can see, the piping fits in the groove under the foot. I move the needle one position to the right when I sew piping in. It gives it a tight fit.






This is the zipper foot:

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When using the zipper foot, you’ll want to make sure your needle is positioned all the way to the left side or it will hit the foot and break.

Stitch all the way down the side of the fabric and stop when you are 1/2″ away from the end. Remember, we have 1/2″ seam allowances, so that’s why we are stopping here. Looking at the photo above, you’ll stop with your needle down into the fabric.

Then, with the needle still in the fabric, lift the presser foot and pivot, or turn, the fabric and the piping toward you:

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You’ll want to clip a little snip into the fabric right at the corner so that the piping lays flatter, like this:

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As you can see, once I turned the corner, I put the presser foot down and continued sewing on the next side.

Continue those same steps all the way around your fabric top.

To finish the two raw edges, match up the ends as shown:


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This process may look familiar. It’s the same thing we did when we joined strips together to make one long one. Once you figure out where the end should end up, put a pin there. You may have to pin the two pieces together where the marker line is and check to see that it’s a snug fit. If not, adjust the lower strip until you get it right where you want it. Now, mark the top strip as shown with a marker showing the 1/4″ seam allowance.

Stitch along that line being careful not to catch the cording in the seam.

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Trim the cording so that when the 2 pieces butt up together they lay flat against one another like this:

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Now, stitch the rest of the seam closed like this:

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Follow the instructions in exactly the same way for the bottom piece.

On the next post, we’ll cover how to put the cushion together. You’re almost done now!

After the next post, I’ll go back to teaching some quicker techniques. So stay tuned!!!

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