Wherein We Try Our Hands At Sewing

My side of the couch, where I do all my quilting and stitching, is on the left side. This is nice because I get a fabulous view of the garden and the trees across the street. This is not nice because I’m constantly dropping my spool of thread and scissors over the side; it seems I’m very right-handed, and very clumsy. Back when I was cross stitching, this wasn’t a massive problem. I could always grab a different set of scissors and just use a different silk to work on a different portion of the design until I felt like getting up to dig my supplies out from under whatever dust bunny had engulfed them. But with quilting, missing your thread is a much harder situation to work around. Also, the sound of a plastic spool of thread bouncing, bouncing, bouncing further away from the couch was starting to drive me batty. It was time to find a solution.

As I pondered what to do, what to do, I remembered flipping through Anna Maria Horner’s book “Seams to Me” while at my friend Sarah’s house. One of the fabulous projects in the book is a pin cushion/sewing supplies caddy. Perfect! All I needed was some fabric and someone to run the sewing machine for me (I will relearn one of these days, just as soon as I completely banish from my memory the frustrations of using industrial grade machines in the NYU costume shop freshman year). Enter “Apple” from Timeless Treasures and Boomer.

I had few 1/2 yards of Apple which I impulse bought a few months ago and was beginning to despair that I’d never find the proper fabric to show off how adorably autumnlonging it is. It took a few days of psyching myself up to cut into it, but ultimately, I really don’t want to be a fabric hoarder. (Plus, there’s still plenty left over to have jauntily sitting atop the stash so that when I walk through the living room I can stop and admire it and squee over the little apples on the trees.)

After an hour of cutting, and a quick trip to PQW for fusible interfacing, it was time to start construction. Boomer ran the wedges through the machine, and got the tube of interfacing and fabric all ready to go. Then I sat down to sew the two together. Turns out the bit in the directions about how “your pieces might not have the same circumference and you might have to go back and redo all your seams” wasn’t joking. So Boomer re-ran the wedges through the machine and it was time for take two. Remarkably, it worked! Perfectly! And then next handful of steps worked perfectly too! In a mere four hours or so, I had a completed — nay, perfectly completed — pin cushion/sewing supplies caddy!

Owl Pincushion

OK, so when I say “perfect”, I really mean “not horrible”, or maybe “adequate”. Heh. But I couldn’t be happier with it! It accomplishes the goals of being a) on the right side of the couch, b) big enough for scissors and thread (bonus: it also holds the USB cord for the camera which up until now lived under the couch cushion where it migrates when we’re not using it), and c) full of “Apple”-y squeeness! So as a finished product, it’s fabulous. As a project? It was fun, but I’m never going to be a one-day-to-start-and-finish-a-project kinda gal. At least not unless I’m really motivated by the sound of a spool of fabric bouncing away from my seat.

[By Pookie]

So, while Pookie was busy making her fancy, intricate, kick-ass project, I was busy undertaking my own adventure in sewing: a pillowcase. Yeah, a really complex and intricate project, I know.

You see, it all started when I decided it was time to break out flannel sheets for my bed. It’s been a few years (flannel and I have a very tempestuous relationship), and when I first dug the sheets out of the linen closet, I thought I was missing a pillowcase. My immediate thought was, “Yay! I can make flannel pillowcases out of those adorable Be Merry fabrics they had at PQW!” Then I found the missing pillowcase and thought, “Aw, crap. This sucks. Now I can’t make flannel pillowcases out of those adorable Be Merry fabrics they had at PQW.” Then I thought, “There’s no law saying I can’t make those pillowcases! Screw it! I’m gonna go to PQW tomorrow to buy the supplies!”

Of course, when I got to PQW, it turned out they didn’t have much of the flannels left, so I bought the pillowcase kit they had for the regular quilting cotton version of Be Merry. Which is just as well, because, like I said, I have a love/hate relationship with flannel sheets.

Now, I love hand-piecing quilt tops, but I actually want to use my Be Merry pillowcase, so that was going to require something terrifying: using the sewing machine. I’ve sewn on a machine, like, once or twice in my life, enough to be completely intimidated by it. But honestly, there is no excuse for being too afraid to machine-sew a pillowcase. It’s three long, straight seams, basically. It is literally a sack. So I forced Boomer to sit next to me and hold my hand through figuring out how not to burst into tears and run away from the machine while sobbing, “Do it for me, Boomer!”

Here’s what I learned while making this extremely simple project:

1. Don’t sew the top of the pillowcase shut. If you do that, especially as the very first step, you are going to either have to add a step #2 for tearing out the first seam you sewed, or you’re going to have to add a final step of “imagine a pillow inside your flat, sealed pillowcase”.

2. Using a sewing machine to make a bunch of long, straight seams is extremely easy, but also requires a level of focus that hand piecing doesn’t call for. I much prefer not having to pay attention to what I’m doing.

3. The construction of a pillowcase, with decorative trim and coordinating band, required a lot more mental gymnastics and visualization that I care to admit, but…

4. …this was, from start to finish, a two-hour project, including a lunch break and a lot of tearing that first seam out. Now, I love, love, love, love, love the finished product, and fully intend to make many more seasonal pillowcases. I think this a great way to get to use adorable fabrics that I can’t figure out how to put into a patchwork quilt pattern. But I also found the process to be a bit unsatisfying. I mean, when I spend $14 on fabric and a pattern, I don’t want the project to be done so quickly. I like to spend time immersed in my projects, getting to really experience the fabrics and the feel of the whole piece. I’m delighted to have my Be Merry pillowcase, but as crafting goes, I’m not about to cast aside months-long quilting projects to start an etsy pillowcase shop or anything.

Christmas Pillowcase

Anyway, in the end, I have created a delightful pillowcase that is good from afar but far from good. And I promptly found a place online that was selling the Be Merry flannels so I can make a coordinating case to go with this one. Just so I’m ready when I’m in the “love” part of my love/hate relationship with flannel.

[By Schnookie]



Filed under Pins and Needles

11 responses to “Wherein We Try Our Hands At Sewing

  1. Great job ladies! The pillowcase is just adorable, and as for the pincushion caddy? Perfect! That is one of the projects in the book I had my eye on and I think I will definitely add it to my to do list. I also dislike the sound of the spool of thread bounding away and unspooling, but even worse is the constant tinkle I hear of my pins falling on the floor.

  2. Thanks, Sarah! This one doesn’t work terribly well as a pin cushion because I just used regular old poly-fil. I’ve read buckwheat (or something weird like that) is best for filling pin cushions. That was too out there for me, so I’ll continue to have two big pin cushion-y-like things floating around for my supplies!

  3. Tram

    Love the projects! I bet this won’t be the first sewing caddy/pincushion you make. There is something about babying our sewing tools….. I just love all my little bags, boxes and kits for my sewing tools and projects. I always think of the opening credits of “To Kill A Mockingbird” when Scout is pawing through her treasures in the cigar box and how she lavishes attention on each object. Okay, now I’m just getting weird……

    “2. Using a sewing machine to make a bunch of long, straight seams is extremely easy, but also requires a level of focus that hand piecing doesn’t call for. I much prefer not having to pay attention to what I’m doing.”

    Oh, I miss my hand piecing. I LOVE hand piecing. People don’t believe me when I say it, but it’s true. The mind wanders wonderfully when doing handwork. I am now piecing a quilt top by machine because of time restraints. I am getting better at it, but my work is better by hand. My neck and shoulder muscles are tight from the concentration needed to run the machine. Sewing by machine is like work sometimes. The pillowcase is Fab by the way. Use wool batting or roving for pincushion filling. It is light and the pins and needles slip wonderfully through it and if you use roving the lanolin will help keep your pins gliding through your fabric.


  4. Thanks, Tram! It’s so true that babying your sewing tools is an essential part of being a stitcher. And you’re totally right about the pin cushion/caddy not being our only one — we’re already discussing how many options there are for fun seasonal fabrics. I mean, you can’t have a fall scissor caddy sitting out on the couch in the springtime, can you? We will definitely take your tip to stuff our future pincushions with wool batting or roving.

    Sewing by machine is like work sometimes.

    That’s a really good way of putting it. I thought it was fun in that it was a different process, but hand-piecing means you get to sit in your comfy chair, in front of the TV, with your friends, daydreaming or emailing or watching hockey or all of those things at once or whatever!

  5. Ooh, thanks for the filling tips, Tram! Now I have another excuse to make another one! (My number one excuse being that I’ll need one that’s less autumnal when Spring rolls around!)

    As for hand piecing, I had yet another non-stitcher say to me the other day that they “don’t have the patience” for handwork. I’m like, “Patience?! It doesn’t take patience to enjoy a wandering mind on a quiet weekend day!”

  6. A little happy snowman pillowcase! I adore it.

  7. I think the pillowcase is absolutely adorable. I need to learn how to make some..I have those fabrics and can’t wait to use them!!

  8. Found your blog on Ask and was so glad i did. That was a quick read. I have a quick question.Is it alright if i send you an email???…

  9. Jenny, of course you can email us!

  10. Thanks for the sewing tips, at this stage I need them!

  11. Chaquetas al aire libre prestan más atención a la ropa y el viento cálido, y hasta ahora algunos de los materiales es la función desodorante antibacteriano, pero el precio es bastante alto chaqueta, en la actualidad para la popularidad de este material no tiene, entonces no es importante El impacto en el precio de posicionamiento de la marca.

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