Rotary Cutters and Mats

I just love my rotary cutter. Do you have one?

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They are so sweet.

They make your sewing life a breeze.

Also your quilting life.

They are like a pizza cutter, only for fabric.

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They are easy to operate. You just pull down on the black plastic gizmo, where the arrows are, and the blade is revealed:

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The blade is super sharp… razor sharp.

So, get in the habit of closing the blade after each cut.

Sorry, I’m a mom. Moms always say “mom things” to everybody no matter who they are.

The beauty of the rotary cutter is how precise the cuts are.

You can use these on virtually any sewing or quilting project.

Besides the rotary cutter, you’ll need a cutting mat specifically designed for this cutter.

Olfa is one brand that comes to mind.

Don’t use your countertop, tabletop or workbench.

It will leave permanent cuts in them…ugly ones.

You’ll also need a see through ruler. They come in various lengths.

I like the 6″ x 24″ ones myself.

But Ialso have a 6″ x 6″ one for small projects.

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Another beauty of the cutting mat is the measured markings on it.

They allow you to line up the fabric on a solid yellow line and then move the ruler to the designated measurement before you cut.

This scarf material was extremely slippery and hard to manage. There’s no way I would have attempted to cut this fabric with a pair of scissors.

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As you can see, I lined up the ruler perpendicular to the fabric.

Put a little pressure on the ruler so it doesn’t slip while you cut. Some people put sand paper dots on the back of the ruler to keep it from slipping. 

When you have a long item to cut, you may have to move your hand once or twice along the ruler as you cut. Just be sure you don’t disturb the fabric while you are doing that.

Hold the cutter like I am in the photo.

It looks like my right index finger is next to the blade, but it is not, I assure you! My finger is resting on the yellow plastic handle.

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Don’t ever cut with the cutter vertical to the mat. Always have the cutter out in front of you.

If you work standing over a table, make sure you are not handling the cutter near the table edge.

I have a friend who accidentally dropped the cutter and it cut into the top of her foot and I won’t tell you how much time it has taken to heal.

Not to scare you…just be careful! (More “mom” advice).

I always do my cutting on the floor so that doesn’t happen.

There are gloves you can buy and wear that keep the blade from cutting you.

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All of these items: Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat, See Through Ruler, and Protective Gloves are available at your local fabric store.

If you don’t live near a fabric store, you can always buy them at Joann Fabrics, Clotilde or Nancy’s Notions online.

I think once you have these, you’ll never go back to scissor-cutting again!

Taking In The Bust

This dress came from a mother of a groom and it needed to be taken in in the bust area, so I’d like to show you how to do that.

You can use this technique on strapless dresses as well.

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Do you see the pins in the side seam? There are pins on the other side as well.

I generally like to take a dress in at the side seams. If you take an equal amount in on both sides, the dress will hang correctly.

Very rarely do I have to move the back zipper. I will if I have to, but it really doesn’t happen that often.

Just be sure that if you take in the back zipper, it doesn’t pull the side seams toward the back of the dress causing it to hang improperly.

Can you see how we are going to take out more fabric at the top of the side seam than we are at the bottom of the bust area? First of all, that’s what it needed, but secondly, you need to pin less and less as you go because you want your seam to taper back to the original seam gradually.

Here is the dress laying down on the table. I run a measuring tape down the side seam from the top. On a sheet of paper, I mark down “L” for the left side of the dress and “R” for the right side.

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This happens to be the left side of the dress, so we’ll do those measurements first.

Do you see how I have pins at the 1″, 4″, 6″ marks, etc? There’s no science to this, it’s just where I happened to stick the pins when my customer had the dress on.

Once I have the measurements from along the tape measure written down, I use the seam gauge to tell me how far from the side edge of the fabric the new seam should go and write that measurement down.

In the photo above, do you see how I am going to take in 1/2″ at the one inch mark? At the 4″ mark, I’ll take in 1/4″.

Once you have these measurements written down, take all the pins out. Eventually, we will be working on the inside of the garment.

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The photo above represents the interior of the dress right at the side seams. I need to use a seam ripper to gently cut the stay stitching threads (be careful not to cut the fabric!) at the top of the side seams where the outer fabric meets the lining. If you are going to take in an inch of the dress, be sure to rip out about 2 inches of stay stitching so you’ll be able to work inside the dress.

See the ribbon? Those are the ribbons the manufacturer attaches to the dress so that you can hang the dress from these ribbons instead of the straps. (In this case, you could hang the dress from the straps since they are so wide.) If you have spaghetti straps, be careful. They can stretch out if you hang the garment by the spaghetti straps.

This ribbon is sewn into the dress at the top of the seam. Sometimes, you’ll find these ribbons sewn into the side seam an inch or so down from the top of the side seams.

So, in this case, gently take them out with a seam ripper.

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In the photo above, do you see that the two rows of stay stitching have been removed?

Now, it’s time to take apart the seam that holds the lining and the outer fabric together.

In the photo below, do you see that I have taken out the ribbon and the seam above that has been taken apart?

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Now, turn the garment right side out.

Sometimes, there are a few stitches holding the front fabric to the lining fabric. Just cut those threads being careful not to damage either the front of the dress or the lining.

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Usually, there is not this white interfacing fabric, but in this case there is. It is there to add stability to the area. I just cut across it as shown. We’ll lap the ends over each other later.

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I have a little extra step I need to do.

If you look at the very first photo above, you’ll see that I pinned the dress from the patterned bust area down into the solid colored blue fabric. This means that some of the alteraion is occuring below that horozontal seam and we need to open up that seam to make the alteration. If we didn’t do that, it wouldn’t lay flat in that seam area when we were finished.

To do this, slide your seam ripper or small pointed scissors under the serged stitches to the right and left of the seam as shown and rip them out.

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Take out the stitches on the seamline

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This will give you a hole like this:

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We’re going to alter the seam I have in my left hand (the skirt part) and the one to the right of my hand (the bodice section). Now, work with one of those side seams at a time. We’ll start with the bodice section (the printed fabric).

Refer to the paper where you wrote all the measurements you transferred earlier.

Pin according to those measurements. If you are working on the left side, follow the left side measurements.

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Where I put the pin into the fabric is my new guide for sewing the new seam. You may want to draw a line down the side if that helps you. Be sure and use a washable or soluble marker made just for fabrics. There are other options which we’ll go into at a later date.

Now, sew, using the pin’s entrance into the fabric as your guide to sewing the new seam. Don’t run over the pin, though. Take it out just before it gets to the presser foot.

Remember to wear eye protection. I just had a needle explode on me the other day and I was so glad I had some glasses on!

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Do you see how the two new seam lines will match up when we sew them together in the next step?

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Take out the original seamline with a seam ripper and press the seam open. If there is too much material, you can trim it. If you trim it, you might want to finish the new cut edge with a zig zag stitch or a serged edge.

Now, take that same intersection and put the new stitched seam lines right sides together facing each other like this:

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Stitch them together using the original seam line as your guide. Finish the edge if you like.

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Now do the exact same thing to the lining by putting pins at the correct spots and stitching a new seamline. Take out the old stitches and press the seam open.

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Up at the top where the two seams will meet, you will fold the ribbon in half and stuff it into the hole like this:

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Lay that intersection flat and pin it if necessary to keep it from slipping.

Stitch across the intersection like this:


Usually, if you have the white interfacing involved. you would stitch it into the seam, but in this case, I found that the interfacing was just above the seamline, so I pushed it out of the way while I stitched. This closes up the seam. If you turn the garment right side out, you’ll see how the ribbon is in the correct place:

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We are now going to stay stitch the edge. This will keep the layers from popping up under the arm pit area. To stay stitch. slide the garment onto the sewing machine with the dress fabric to one side and all the rest to the other side (this includes the lining and inside seam allowances). Just push them all to the lining side of the dress. Be careful not to get unwanted fabric caught up under the presser foot as you sew:

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I don’t usually see a double row of stitching in a garment like this one has. You don’t need to do two rows. One will suffice.

But, since this is for a customer and the original stitching holes will show if I don’t stitch two rows, I am going to stitch two rows!


I could have sewn over the ribbon on both rows, but that was not how it was done originally and, again, I want it to look like it did when she brought it in.


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I just reattached a few beads that were loose with some matching thread.

You can tack the lining to the bodice fabric underneath if you want to keep it from shifting while you wear it.

Here’s how the finished product looks.

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Now, doesn’t that look beautiful?

A Quick Fix…Webbing

One thing I’ve noticed is that many of my customers could do simple repairs on their own machines, but they just lack the confidence that they can do it!

Repairing webbing is simple.  As long as the item fits under your presser foot easily, you shouldn’t have any trouble sewing on it.

Here is an example. This is a fishing “fanny pack” tote bag.

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The stitching on some of the webbing has come undone:

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First, put in a matching thread in the top and bobbin of the machine.

In this case, I put black on top and green in the bobbin. You don’t have to do that, but those kind of details make it look nice.

Switch to a “Denim” needle. I find that the Schmetz brand is typically easy to find. Be sure to use the correct needle for your brand of machine.

Shimmy the item under the presser foot, making sure no other fabric or webbing is caught under the presser foot or in the way of the needle.

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Be sure and hold the thread tails as you begin to sew so that they don’t get all tangled underneath and make a mess.

Backstitch at the start and stop of your stitching. On a project like this, I tend to go over the entire length at least twice and then backstitch.

And, that’s all there is to it!

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You may have all sorts of items that need repairing like your dog leash, backpack, soft sided brief case, or duffle bag.

Try repairing them yourself. It only takes a minute or two!

Halter Top or Halter Dress Alteration

Have you ever had a halter top or halter dress fit loosely on the side of the bust area? It’s a very common problem.

And since halters are so “in” right now, I thought I’d show you how to fix that problem.

First, let’s look at the superb diagram below! Aren’t you impressed?

It illustrates the basic idea of what we are going to do.

In essence, what we are going to do is to open up the seam as indicated on the diagram and move the upper section down and stitch it back up on the new stitching line as shown.

If you have a halter top or dress that doesn’t have lining, that’s literally all you do. You may have to take out some serged stitches on the edge first, if you have them.

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The instructions I am about to give are for a wedding dress that has lining in it. Once you know the technique, you can use it on any halter garment you have.

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This wedding dress has lots of shiny beads and if your garment has anything like these, you might have to remove the ones that will be in the way of your stitching before you begin.

Believe it or not, I did not have to remove any of these!

Have your customer try on the dress or top. If this is for you, you may need someone else to do the pinning for you. Pin up the excess fabric as shown by the pink pin in the photo above. I just pinched the excess fabric until it made the halter fit snug. Make sure you pin the fabric that is above the seam as shown. You don’t want any of the fabric from below the seam involved.

On this dress, it looks like there’s a hole in the outer left part of the garment, but it is not a hole. It is actually part of the bare back of the dress.

On the inside of this dress is lining. Yours may not have lining which would make the alteration alot easier because you can see the seams without having to open anything up.

In this dress, there was some interior stitching that had to be removed so I could get inside the dress. Use a seam ripper for this if you have this scenario.


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This allows you to open up the dress and work inside where the adjusment has to be made

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Remember, when you pinned the excess fabric below the bust, there was some fabric on either side of the pin you put in. It may look like you’re taking in 1/2″ (for example), but you are really taking in a whole inch if you measure the front and back of the pinch.

Referring to the hand drawn diagram above, you need to either hand sew a basting line with long stitches or draw a new stitching line with a washable marker. This is represented by the dotted line in the diagram. Do you see how the line gradually meets back to the original sewing line?

So, in this case, I’ll begin stitching my hand basted line one inch from the original one starting at the side seam and gradually tapering toward the middle.

Again, this basted line is the new line that will be machine stitched on. Do you see it on the right side of the photo below? You can see the original seamline (it is closest to the cut edge) and the new basted line to the right of that. It looks like a faint line.

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Sorry, but I don’t like to use a colored thread when I’m working with a wedding dress. It would be awful if it left a mark. Not that that has ever happened to me, but I sure don’t want it to!

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So, if you look at what you’re working with, you have three separate parts: the skirt fabric, the lining fabric and the bust area.

If you don’t have lining, you would just have the two sections: skirt and bust.

If you have a halter top, it would be the area below the bust and the bust piece.

So, I put a pin through all three of those layers, starting with the layer closest to you. Let’s say that’s the skirt. Put a pin through the original seam allowance, then stick it through the new basted line on the bust section and then through the original seam allowance on the lining section.

Do this pinning about every inch along the seamline.

You should see that the bust area is sticking up a little bit above the others:


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Once you put that pin through, keep it there (do you see the bead head in the photo below?) while you put another pin in (vertically). Once you have the vertical pin in, you can take the other one out. Keeping that first pin in ensures that the layers won’t slip around before you put the second one in.

If you just put a vertical pin in, those layers could shift quite easily and you’d see the old seamline on the right side of the garment. Plus, this ensures that you get the rest of the dress to fit correctly like it did before you started the alteration.

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Stitch, using the original seamline as a guide. Because you pinned the new seam within these layers, it will automatically get sewn at the right spot.

You can see the altered part sticking up out of the middle of the seam.

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You can trim the excess fabric off if you like.

Turn the garment right side out and you’re finished!

It wasn’t as hard as you thought, right?

My Dad Taught Me To Sew

Today marks what would have been my Dad’s 79th birthday. He passed away two years ago.

So, this is to honor him and, being that it’s almost Father’s Day, I figured you wouldn’t mind because there’s some sewing parallels to be observed here.

Dad bought me a little battery operated chain stitch sewing machine for my 7th birthday.

Dad? Yeah.

My mom didn’t know much about sewing….it frustrated her to no end.

She was an amazing knitter though.

But, Dad knew how to sew…and he was good.

Growing up during the Depression, son of a gasoline station owner, he was a hard worker. His parents thought he should know how to do things, even “girl” things like cooking, sewing and ironing.

Dad worked his first job at age ten driving big trucks of gasoline from Colorado Springs to Montrose, Colorado and back again. In those days, no one worried about safety, driver’s licenses or being too young to do a man’s job. You just did what you had to do to keep food on the table. That meant the whole family chipped in to help. He worked hard and kept good grades. He earned a football scholarship to the University of Colorado and then went on to become a doctor.

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So, I like to tease that he sewed on fabric and people!

And he was good at both.

Once, when I  was little, we had a kitten who shredded the sheers (sheers are thin wispy white draperies for those of you who were born after 1980!) Maybe your grandmother has some hanging in her home.

Dad sat down to an old Italian sewing machine and repaired those drapes until they looked brand new. None of us figured out how he did it. There was no sign of kitty and no sign of human intervention by the time he was finished with them. I was impressed to say the least.

That was Dad. He had the money to go out and buy a new pair, but he chose to fix them himself.

He was a doctor, but that wasn’t enough for him.

As he operated on people, he saw the need for more advanced surgical devices and equipment. Since they weren’t available, he decided to solve that problem and make them himself.  His first invention was a shunt. This led to him developing and manufacturing all sorts of medical equipment, fiber optic cameras, instruments, software and was working on a cure for cancer. By the time he died, he had 268 patents to his name.

Did I get any of those genes? Well, I do think of things to invent from time to time, but I have never followed through to manufacture them. I certainly didn’t get the “brilliant” genes or the “I want to go inside people’s guts and fix what’s wrong with them” genes.

But what I did get from him was a good work ethic. All eight of us kids got that. None of us are doctors, but each one is accomplished in their field.

It wasn’t just the hard work, brains and skill he possessed, as impressive as those were.

He had a kind and gentle spirit with a great sense of humor. These are what pop into my mind when I think about him.

What does this have to do with sewing?

Well, these are the things that make a good seamstress or tailor.

You need a sense of humor when you are ripping out a seam for the fourth time.

You need a kind and gentle spirit or you’ll throw the garment in the trash (or cut it up with scissors if you’re too frustrated!)


You need to persevere because if you don’t get it right the first time, and you give up, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even begun. If you keep on trying, you’ll get it and you’ll be glad you did.

The results are worth it. Whether it’s raising kids, working hard in school, managing a team of people or fixing a wedding dress emergency three hours before the ceremony…all these things make a difference.

They make a difference in your character and they make a difference in the lives of those you come in contact with.

But, there’s one other thing I need to say about my Dad.

I’m sure he’s in heaven today.

Is it because he was such a great guy?

No. He’d be the first to say he wasn’t.

He made mistakes. He failed. He had regrets.

Deep ones.

He fell asleep at the wheel in his early years and his wife died as a result.

Can you imagine? That would be an awful burden to live with your whole life.

There are other things.

The point is, it’s not what he accomplished in life or whether he was a good guy that got him into heaven. In fact, nothing you or I do gets us there.

It’s not about us.

It’s about God sending His Son Jesus to die in our place on the cross.

When we stop trying to “earn” our way into heaven, which the Bible says is impossible anyway because of our sin, and we trust that what Jesus did on the cross for us is enough, we are saved from hell. John 5: 24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.”

We receive this gift of eternal life by faith. It’s not enough to believe in God. Satan believes in God, but he’s not going to heaven.

It’s transferring trust in myself and my own good works to trusting in what Jesus did to save me.

So, what’s the incentive to live a good life and do good things for others?

It’s to say “thank you” to God for the amazing gift of eternal life He gave us!

Dad understood that Jesus died for his sins. About three weeks before he died, he told me he made that decision. He was forgiven of all the regrets, sins, and mistakes in his life. I am too.

Yeah, I’m taking a risk by telling you this on this sewing blog, because I may lose your readership, but I’m willing to take the risk. Why? Because I have found that nothing is better than knowing God. I tried life without God and I failed miserably. I still fail, but I know that God will pick me up, forgive me and give me another fresh start…every day.

He’s amazing.

Not me.

Not my Dad.

God is.

God is amazing.

How many generations will remember you when you’re gone? Maybe one or two.

How many more years have you got? You may not even have one. Make that decision to trust in Jesus today. All you have to do is ask Him.

And while you’re at it, say “thanks” to your Dad for the good qualities he has….while you still can.

Let’s Alter Some Scarves

A dear friend of mine had a bone marrow transplant for cancer and is in remission. She lost all her hair from chemo and it’s growing back. In the meantime, she is wearing scarves over her wigs and wants the scarves altered.

Here is the collection that I need to alter:

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Maybe you have alot of scarves that you would wear if they were shorter or a different shape.

In todays’ post, we’ll look at three different alterations plus one super fast way of getting the job done.

Scarf #1

My friend has requested that the first scarf be altered to a width of 2″ and a length of 35″. Maybe you want yours with different measurements. The technique is the same, just change the measurements to fit your needs.

So, I begin by measuring the length. I want to remember to add a seam allowance onto the final measurement, so I am going to cut the length of this scarf to 35 1/2″. This will give me a seam allowance of 1/2″. The remaining long side and one end of the scarf are already finished, so I am going to leave them alone.

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I cut across the scarf at the 35 1/2″ mark.

Now, I need to cut the width. Again, I want the finished width to be 2″. Since this scarf already has one seam that runs the length of the scarf and the scarf is folded (doubled), I will add a seam allowance to the edge I am going to cut and cut this scarf 2 1/4″ wide, meaning that I am giving it a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Why the different seam allowances you ask? (There’s a 1/2″ seam allowance on the short end and a 1/4″ seam allowance along the long edge.) Well, the original seam running down the length of the scarf on both long edges is 1/4. So, along the long edge, I am adding 1/4″.

I am making the end seam allowance a little wider because it will get alot of use as she ties the ends in a knot behind her head each time she wears it.

So, in the photo below, I cut the width of the scarf at the 2 1/4″ mark using my rotary cutter and cutting mat. You can also mark the line and cut with a pair of scissors.

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Once you’ve done that, turn the scarf inside out so that the right sides are facing each other and pin the long edges together. It is especially important to pin this if your scarf  material is the silky, slippery kind.


Now, stitch a 1/4″ seam along the long edge of the scarf, making sure you leave a few inches unsewn somewhere in the middle of the scarf, so you can turn it right side out again. I leave the opening in the middle instead of at one of the ends because it is easier to stitch up the opening in the middle than at an end. Trust me on this.

Go ahead and stitch across the end of the scarf.

Turn the scarf right side out now. I use a tube turner like I did for making spaghetti straps.

Then, I use a small screwdriver, pencil tip, crochet hook (or anything else with a point that won’t poke through the fabric) to push out the corners and make them sharp.

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Now you are going to press the edge so that it lays flat.

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When you get to the opening, press under 1/4″ on both sides of the opening.

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Stitch the opening closed by machine stitching close to the edge or by handstitching it closed.

And there you have it….a 2″ x 35″ scarf all ready to wrap around your head!

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Scarf #2……looks like this to begin with….a large square of fabric:

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This is to be a 2″ x 35″ scarf as well, only it’s a little different than the first scarf.

For this scarf, my friend wanted the paisley turquoise object to be on the top of her head when she wore it. This means I needed to cut across the diagonal (or bias) of the fabric to get what she wanted.

So, that’s what I did.

I figured that if I wanted a 2″ x 35″ scarf. I would make it with one seam down the long side and then stitch the ends closed.

That meant I needed to cut the fabric bigger than those measurements.

Ok, to get the width, I needed to double the measurement of 2″ and make it four inches because we are going to fold it in half along the long edge

We also need to have a little more than that for seam allowances. We’ll add 1/4″ + 1/4″ for both sides of the seam allowance.

With me so far?

So, I cut the width at 5 inches. That means I have 2 1/2″ on each side of the scarf. (2 inches for the final measurement plus 2″ for the backside of the folded scarf and 1/4″ for the seam allowance on each side of the scarf. E-mail me if that doesn’t make sense at

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Next, I folded the scarf in half lengthwise with the right sides facing each other and pinned to hold it in place.

I then stitched a 1/4″ seam along the long edge of the scarf.

Then, I used a serger to finish the long edge.

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Turn the tube right side out and stitch the ends closed by machine or by hand.

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Press the long edges flat


And, there you have it!

Scarf #3……is an easy one:

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For this scarf, she just wanted it half the width that it is now.

It has such a nice finished edge to it, so I left that alone.

Be sure to take all the tags off with a seam ripper if they are in the way:

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All I had to do was fold it right sides together, pin it and stitch down the long edge:

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Turn the scarf right side out, stitch the ends closed, and press flat.

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Doesn’t that look easy?

It really is easy.

Scarf #4….the fastest way yet!

You can also use a serger with a rolled edge foot. That foot will make the edge look like this:

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Just follow your serger manual on the set up of your machine.

The beauty of this foot is that you don’t have to sew any seams! You just serge down each end and you are finished!

You could have this done in two minutes flat!

Hand Sew a Hem

Recently, a reader inquired about how to hand sew a hem. So, let’s walk that through together.

There are many techniques and stitches that can be used, so I just want to say up front that this is not the final word in hemming, but I hope it will help.

First, if you would like to look at the entire process of hemming from the time you pin a pair of pants to the finished hem, you may want to look at these posts first:

Hem Your Jeans The Professional Way

How To Hem Pants And Skirts

How To Hem Without Puckers: Tapered and Flared Pants

Hemming Stretchy Knits

This post will tackle the actual hand stitching of the hem.

To begin, thread a needle by running the end of the thread that comes off of the spool through a needle. Knot the end. I like to use a single thread. Some people like to double the thread and then tie a knot.

I use a single thread because a double tends to get tangled up alot easier on me.

Some people use beeswax or a product called “Thread Heaven”

sewing blog 249Thread Heaven is a very small box that contains a substance that coats the thread and keeps it from tangling. Beeswax has the same effect, I am told.

Once you thread the needle, put your finger over the thread (see photo) and pull the thread through, as if you are sewing with it, keeping your finger there, so that the thread gets covered with the coating. Do the same if you are using beeswax.

To begin, I like to serge the edge of the pants or skirt or dress. I like the finished edge that serging produces. (For this demonstration, I am using some scrap fabric so that you can see the stitches better).

If you don’t have a serger, you can finish the edge with a zig zag stitch, or trim the edge with a pair of pinking shears (if you have them), or add on seam binding or stretch lace that you purchase at your local sewing store. Walmart carries the latter two as well.

Let’s say you don’t have any of those options. You can always turn down the top 1/4″ of the edge and press it. Then, you can stitch on that folded edge. We’ll look at that in a moment.

First, let’s look at how to hem a serged edge.

I fold the serged edge towards me and hold it down with my fingers as I sew. You can also pin it if you’d like.

Bring your needle up through the fold and take a tiny stitch into the leg of the pants. I try to only take up one thread if possible so that the stitch doesn’t show through on the right side of the garment.

sewing blog 252Then, take your needle behind the fold and take a tiny stitch into the fold.

sewing blog 303Repeat this process until you are finished.

This is what the underside of the hem looks like:

sewing blog 304This is what the pants will look like on the right side of the garment:

sewing blog 256I like this type of stitch because it is not sewn right on the hem edge. This makes it nearly invisible from the right side.

Another stitch that is common is this one. For this one I come up through the hem section and take a small stitch on the garment. Notice I am working from left to right this time.

sewing blog 257I continue by taking a small stitch in the hem and then a small stitch in the garment. Keep your stitches a little on the loose side. Don’t pull too tight.

After a few stitches, it should look like this:

sewing blog 259Another way to hand stitch a hem is by turning the edge under 1/4″ as previously mentioned. Once you turn it under, you can stitch it down like we did in the first example:

sewing blog 261Take a small stitch into the garment and then one into the tunnel.

It looks really nice on the inside of the garment

sewing blog 262Just be careful not to iron over the fold like this

sewing blog 264If you do, it will leave a bump on the right side of the garment like this:

sewing blog 265Just iron on the bottom fold only and from the wrong side of the garment. That will ensure your hand stitched hem doesn’t show from the right side and looks professional.

Seam Gauge….Do you have one?


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This is a seam gauge. Do you have one?

If not, you really should.

They are essentially mini rulers.

They are 6 or 6 1/2 inches long, depending on the company that makes it.

For small measurements, they are so easy to maneuver…much easier than a 12″ ruler, yardstick or measuring tape.

And, they have a little bonus feature:



There’s a plastic slide that you can move up and down the gauge.

This allows you to set the gauge at a desired measurement and keep it there while you cut the fabric all the way around a hem, or press a fold, for example.

I use mine every day for all sorts of alterations.

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I also use it when I am pinning in the bust or side seams of a bridal gown or a blouse for a customer. I measure how much I took in and write it down in case the pin falls out.

Any time I need to take a small measurement, the seam gauge is right there on the battlefield with me.

It’s in my arsenal of top four necessary items I use every day.

Stay tuned for the other three.

Repairing Leather

My husband presented me with his golf club cover this morning.

It has a big hole in it.

If you watch the golf channel (like my husband does), you’ll notice the caddies take the covers off the clubs by grabbing the top of the cover and pulling hard on it.

I bet that’s what happened with my husband’s cover (only he doesn’t have a caddy, so I wonder who did it?!)

But after all that pulling, something had to give.

You can see where the stretchy ribbing pulled away from the leather head of the cover.

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See the white lines in the photo above? Those are pieces of plastic tubing that give the cover its shape.

Don’t worry, we’ll be able to maneuver that.

Now, I’m not saying that we are going to stitch on plastic. We aren’t. Not really anyway. You’ll see.

And let me make it perfectly clear that not every machine can stitch on leather.

I was a little skeptical about repairing this on my machine at first, but a good woman knows her limitations (isn’t that a Clint Eastowood line? Only I put “woman” where “man” was).

Name that movie.

Ok, I can’t either.

Anyway I digress.

The reason I think I have  a chance is that I am not trying to sew over two thick pieces of leather. This is one piece of leather of average thickness and one piece of stretchy ribbing material, so I am more confident. If your project is too thick to fit under your presser foot, consider taking it to a leather repair shop or a shoe repair store.

If you try to sew something that is too thick, you can jam the needle, jam the machine and/or break the needle and/or break the machine. It could get ugly and expensive.

So, don’t try this at home. You need someone who has an industrial machine in that case (Leather shop or shoe repair shop).

But, back to the project at large.

First, get yourself some leather sewing machine needles at your local sewing store or online at Clothilde.


You need them if you’re going through leather. Don’t try to use your regular needles, please. If you do, make sure you’re wearing eye protection.

On second thought, just make sure you’re wearing eye protection no matter what. A broken needle can fly up and hit your eye. It has happened to me once, and thankfully, I had eye protection on.

Yeah, I looked like a dork, but hey, I saved my eye.

Ok, back to the repair.

I began by sewing very slowly to see if the machine could handle the project. You may need to “walk” the machine at first to see how it does. To walk it, pull the fly wheel toward yourself several times to see if the needle goes into the leather and doesn’t just stick there and refuse to come out. If it sticks there after several tries, you might want to abandon the machine and hand sew the hole with a leather needle that is made for hand stitching leather. Or, you have the option, again, of going to a shop.

My machine did just fine, so I  began to sew the hole. Within a few stitches, I came upon the plastic tubing I mentioned earlier. When I got right up to it, I did two things:

One, I put a jean-a-ma-jig under the back of the presser foot.

This step is key whenever you are sewing over a big bump, like you do when you are hemming jeans.

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Two, I walked the machine over the plastic. In other words, don’t use the gas pedal. Just move the fly wheel toward yourself very slowly until the needle is past the tubing. That way, you don’t hit the tubing with the needle and cause all sorts of mechanical and medical problems for yourself.

If you do hit the plastic tubing while you are walking the needle, you won’t damage anything. You aren’t going at any speed, so you can’t hurt anything. Just lift the needle a little using the fly wheel, move the fabric a little and try walking the needle again until it finds a space to go into the fabric. You may have to walk the machine several stitches.

Once you’re past the tubing, you can remove the jean-a-ma-jig and continue sewing.

Sometimes, I sew twice over areas that need some reinforcement.

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Clip your threads and you’re finished.

Doesn’t it look great? And, it was so easy.

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You just saved yourself some big bucks.

Your husband will just have to put something else on his Father’s Day and Birthday gift list!

Job Opportunity

Are you looking for a way to earn some extra cash each month?

You may have thought it wasn’t possible if you have kids running underfoot and your sewing skills aren’t perfect yet.

Or, your skills are just fine, but you want to be able to stay at home and work.

Whatever the reason, I have the job for you!

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Over the years, folks have brought me scads of sports uniforms.

Hockey, Soccer, Football, Baseball, and Karate, (like this uniform).

They want their patches sewn on, but they don’t have a sewing machine.

I was thinking of that as I worked on 8 uniforms today.

You can do this!

The beauty of it is that you can sew these on at various times throughout your day, a few minutes at a time, in between making peanut butter sandwiches and driving the kids to practice.

Advertise, at first, with your kid’s team.

Then, go to other teams, neighbors, friends, etc.

If you want more business, go to the local sporting goods stores, ice rinks, gyms, etc. and let them know of your services.

I used to do the patches for the Colorado State Football team and the local high school teams of various sports here in town. I even sewed on Greek letters for the frat and sorority houses.

You don’t need to have special skills to do this job…you just need to know how to stitch a straight line (and sometimes a curved one).

Actually, some people like theirs sewn on with a zig zag stitch.

To get started, I have the customer iron on the patch to hold it in place.

If the patch doesn’t have the iron on residue on the back, have the customer place a couple pins in the middle of the patch to hold it tight. I have the customer do this process so I know exactly where they are to be stitched.

Load your machine with a color of thread that matches the outer area of the patch. Then, I like to use the color of the garment in the bobbin. In the case of this karate uniform, I used red. When the customer looks inside, they see red thread and it looks nice that way. However, it is not necessary and you may like to keep the same color bobbin thread for every job.

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In the photo above, the customer had ironed on the patches. I sewed this patch on like it was a straight patch since the curve was gentle.

To sew on a circular shaped patch, take a few stitches and leave the needle in the patch. Lift the presser foot and pivot the patch just a little. Lower the presser foot and take a few more stitches, then lift the presser foot and pivot the patch again. Repeat this process until you have stitched all around the patch. Be sure and backstitch to hold the stitches in tight.

By the way, I like to sew patches on in a counter clockwise fashion. Maybe it’s because I am right handed. Whatever the reason, it just feels right. Test that out for yourself and see which way you like best.

***Warning: Be careful not to sew too many of these at one sitting.  Doing the same repetetive motion in sewing (or anything) for hours may result in carpal tunnel syndrome. Mix it up. Do some of these for awhile and then switch to another alteration. Or, switch to something else all together for awhile and then come back to it. Your wrists will be happy you did!

Having said that, this can be a very lucrative job depending on how much business you can drum up. Essentially, it’s pretty easy. No mother in her right mind wants to spend several evenings hand sewing these puppies on. They are usually thick and sometimes you have to use a pliers to get the needle through. So, advertising should be easy.

How much should you charge? Well, sew a few on and see how long it takes and then price according to the average time, or by your hourly rate.

Give it a try. It’s easy. It’s fun and you’ll make some dough while you’re at it!