Thursday, 17 October 2019

Why you should use a Sewing Machine Needle Cushion

We spend a lot of money purchasing fabric and yet we tend to be stingy when it comes to buying sewing machine needles.  Spending $6 to $10 on a pack is nothing compared to damaging a $30 - $100 piece of fabric.  Did you know that sewing machine needles have an average life of 8 hours sewing time?

If you hear a popping sound as you sew or your bobbin thread starts nesting then I would consider changing your needle before it starts damaging your fabric.  Do not wait until your needle breaks to replace it!  I have heard sewers complain that their machine has tension issues.  I usually ask them when they changed their needle last.  Most common answer - it hasn't broken yet!  When questioning them further they mention that they have never changed it since buying their machine!

There are differnt needles for different fabric and styles of sewing.  Each needle type is built differntly.  For example, topstitch (embroidary) needles have a larger eye which prevents decorative threads such as rayon's from snapping as you sew.  Ballpoints / Jersey are designed to sew knits fabrics.  There is a lot of information on needles available at: and

It is also important to consider the quality of the needles you are buying.  Cheap is not usually best.  Some brands the needles are polished and others they are dipped in an acid.  Some look straight to the eye but infact can be slightly bent thus causing damage to your needle plate or bobbin shuttle/case.

Your machine manual will also give you recommendations on the correct needle type for your machine.  For example, some of the Singer sewing machines require needles that are slightly shorter than the generic machine needles.  Check your manual and if you are not sure, check with the supplier you purchased your machine from.

Make sure when changing your needle that you insert it as high as it can go.  Tighten the needle screw with a screw driver to ensure your needle doesn't drop out.

Now back to my post heading.  Why you should use a sewing machine needle cushion.

We have watched our mothers, grandmothers or other sewers take their needle out of their machine and place it back into the packet.  Hmmmmm - how do you know which are your new needles?

Please don't put a used needle back into the packet it came from.  Make a machine needle cushion that can sit next your machine.

I use a Clover needle cushion (top right).  Notice the seperate sections?  Its easy enough to make your own.  I have made smaller machine needle cushions for my class as gifts (left).  I have separated and labelled each section.

So how does it work?
I frequently sew with different dress fabrics and also quilt so swap my needles regularly.  I have completed machine quilting a baby quilt and now I want to start making a cotton dress.  I know that I haven't used my quilting needle for 8 hours sewing so I remove it and place it in the quilting section of my cushion.  After completing my dress, I place my needle into the 80/12 section. Before I commence a new project, I check my needle cushion for the required needle and only reach for a new one if a used one is not available.

One more thing.  I have a small glass jar (jam size) in which i put all my blunt pins & safety pins, old machine needles, blunt rotary cutting blades and any other "sharp" items I want to dispose of.  Once the jar is full, then they are disposed of or recycled (if possible).

Happy stitching.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Recycling a Woolen Blanket

I have had a bit of fun over the last week making a cape out of an old woolen blanket.  This is a gift for a friend.

The blanket was a double size and approx 2 metres long.  It had quite a few stains so I spent a lot of time considering my pattern placements before cutting.

Once sewn I single crocheted around the edge using a 3 ply merino yarn and 2.5 crochet hook.

To give the fabric more support when opening and closing the cape using domes, I cut two small pieces of fabric, overlocked them then hand stitched them onto the inside of the left front. Then sewed on the dome backing.  See photos below.  Probably not the most tidy idea, but it should work.

For the right front I used the back of the buttons to support the front domes.

Its very comfortable to wear and can be used for going out, sitting around a campfire or slouching at home.

Now to give it a good press and gift wrap it.

Oh nearly forgot to mention.  I unpicked the blanket's label and hand stitched it into the back of the cape.

Happy Sewing

Monday, 21 January 2019

Confidence in sewing your own garments

I learnt to sew at collage making dresses, coats, suits and when I left I sewed my own clothes for work.  In my 20's any pattern fitted  and I could whip something up overnight for a party the next day.
Life got busy, children came along and the price of ready made clothing became affordable and in some cases cheaper than buying fabric.  My shaped changed!

Working in a sewing supplies shop I have noticed the trend of older women taking up sewing again to make garments that fit them better and with fabric choices can give them their own sense of style.
If you haven't sewn clothes for yourself in ages how can you guarentee you will be happy with the final product? I found it took patience, time and help from others (or the net) to gain my sewing confidence again.

I have watched several project runways and picked up several interesting tips.  Probably the most important one is to make a sample or practise piece.  This has saved me lots of $$$.

Next month my daugher is getting married.  It will be a relaxed casual affair.  So with the encouragement of Jo Morris (my boss) we set of to buy fabric.  Jo directed me to silk.  I was a little apprehensive as I have only used silk in my quilts and never actually worn it.

I chose this geometric silk fabric from The Fabric Store in Wellington and along with my Style Arc pattern, thought I could whip this dress up in a weekend.   Gemma (my work collegue) advised me to make a sample to test the pattern first.  Oh my gosh - that was so important.  With Gemms's guidance, we had to redesign the bodice to suit my body shape.  The darts were not in the right place so the bodice was remade using princess lines which has a more flattering fit.
Gemma also pointed out the importance of  laying out my pattern to work with the geometric lines so they flowed in the same direction.

The dress will now hang for a week before it is hemmed.  Yay its nearly done.  I am pleased with it and have learnt so much.  I have now unpicked my practise piece made from rayon (similar weight to silk) and will remake it with Princess lines.  This should reinforce the things I have learnt.

So don't be afraid to give it a go.  There are a lot of resourses available to us now than 30 years ago and I am sure you can find someone that can help guide you.

Happy sewing.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Its nearly 2019!

With this year coming to an end,  I have started planning for next years classes.  I mentor a group of local quilters (21 of them) for 28 weeks in the year.  They are constantly looking for new challenges.  So my creativeness has been very limited due to time but I am very happy passing on my knowledge to others.  As a big thank you to all the women who have mentored me over the years, I believe I have the responsiblity to pass on what I know to the next generation of sewers.

Check this out!  Found in my garden last week while I was weeding.  It is a section of garden that hasn't required my attention for a very long time (years).  This was my husband's tee-shirt.  Cotton Polyester mix fabric.  Most of the cotton has rotted leaving only the polyester fibre and the label.  He obviously didn't miss it and it must have fallen out of our bedroom window!

This is my first attempt at wet felting (below).  I usually use my embellishing machine.  This was harder on the hands but so much fun.  I was under the strict guidance of  my friend Sandra who wouldn't let me stop working the fabric until she was happy it was well felted.  We used Ashford corridale and Merino/silk slivers.  Such great colours (photo doesn't do it justice).
I turned my piece into a knitting needle roll for a friend.

Jo was so delighted that she sent me this picture with her needles loaded. Plus 
her latest knitted item in 4ply Rowan yarn using pattern from the Patons Ombre baby book.
Spool Caps.  Are you using the correct spool cap for your spool on your machine?  I have been writing trouble shooting articles as part of one of my classes.  Its amazing how such a simple thing can cause so much trouble.

In the picture above I am basting a cot quilt using fabric rolls.  The backing is on the roll to the far left, next is the batting followed by the quilt top.  The single roll on the right is part of the quilt that has been basted.  Some quilters use swimming pool noodles.  I thing the fabric rolls are to light as it was hard to keep the rolls still  I may look into something slightly heaver like PVC pipping.

During the later part of this year, I ran several Trapunto classes using both traditional and modern methods.

This is Alison's sample.  I really liked how she imiated the pattern in her fabric with her quiting.

This is my own method of Trapunto which does not involve cutting away or stuffing.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Patchwork, Tunisian Crochet, stacking Bowties Plus more

Yes its been quite a while since I have had the opportunity to catch up with my blog.  Also I struggle with the format of Blogger and once I have published my post, it moves my photographs around.  Sooooo frustrating.  Any tips would be appreciated.

My classes commenced end of April, starting patchwork for beginnrs at Wellington Sewing Center

Here are some of the quilt tops.

I ran two Classes of Tunisian Crochet, introducing tactile stitches to crocheters at Wellington Sewing Center.

A Quilt as you Go class:

Louise and Prue showed off their completed Kaleidoscope quilts from Last years class.

Some of the ladies who attend my Wednesday night class made Stacking Bowtie cushions.

There are still more cushions under construction.  I do have another class for this technique coming up Sunday 5th August at Wellington Sewing Center.

We were lucky enough to test drive Sue Schreuder's E-Spinner made by Ashford.  It did look easy when Sue was using it.  Soooo on my "Want" list.

My Effort - lets just call this artistic!

And finally -an Overnight or Weekender bag class coming up.  Will fit in the aircraft "overhead" locker provided it does not wight more than 7kg.  Its fully lined with an internal pocket.
For more details, please visit Wellington Sewing Center website or contact

Thats all for now.  Thank you for taking the time to read my post.  Until next time,
Happy stitching


Friday, 2 March 2018

Power cords - Tripping hazards

I am involved with a goup of quilters as a mentor over a 28 week period and we start up again this week.  You can imagine 21 quilters with 21 machines - power cables/cords everywhere.

In the past to prevent anyone from tripping over these cables we have used tape to tape down the cables onto the carpet.  Needless to say when the tape is lifted it leaves a very sticky residue on the cable and on hands.

Andrea (member of this group) suggested we use velcro fabric strips.  She had seen this techqniue on a training course.  So we are going to give this a go.

This morning I removed all the sticky residue from our cables and multi boxes using DeSolvit.  Its a great product but always do a test first because it can eat through laytex etc.  I use this product to gently remove the sticky residue left on my spool from the stickers on machine sewing threads.  Its orange based so if you are allegic to citrus please do not use this product.

Two hours of wiping and these look new.

Our new cable trip protectors.  Nice and bright so they can be seen when in action.  The cable can still move within its casing i.e. adjusted if required.

Hook velcro underneath

Cut 18 cm (7") with strip full width of the fabric (150cm in this case).  If your fabric needs to be longer, sew two pieces together before commencing next step.

Fold fabric in half and sew down the side seam all the way down the length of your fabric.  I found my overlocker quick for this job.

Turn your tube inside out.  Make sure your seam is in the center.  This will be the bottom of your strip.  Turn in the ends and stitch closed.
Sew hook velcro down both sides full length of your strip.  Once finished, cover the hook with loop velcro to prevent the hook attaching itself to your clothing when not in use.
I used 16mm wide hook and loop velcro.

We will test these next week and we can be cut down to size really easily if required.

Happy stitching

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Two New classes

I have scehduled new two classes.

The first is called Zipper Art.   It is 2 two hour sessions Thursday evenings July 12 & 19 and will be held at Wellington Sewing Centre.  In this class you will be shown how to manipulate pieces of zip into different shapes to create your own zipper art piece.
Its all hand work, exercise pieces of zips will be included in the class cost and all you need to bring is a couple of good needles and your smile.

The second class is the "Weekender Bag".  Its soft, so can be easily rolled up to put away when not in use but it is big and will hold lots.  It should fit the "carry on Luggage" requirements but will confirm that later.
The pattern has now been drafted and tested.  I will be making a class sample over the next couple of weeks.  It is currently scheduled over two thursday evenings 26 June and 3rd of July.  It may run over onto a third week or home work will be expected.

Contact to book.  Will post the bag sample ASAP :)
Happy crafting.