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Sewing Chores: Tips to maximize sewing time

Even if you love sewing, there’s some parts that can be a chore. Ignoring those tasks or leaving them for later can result in wasted sewing time and money. Here’s a list of chores I try to tackle when I have a few minutes so that my real sewing time is spent actually sewing.

Bobbin winding

If you have a Side Winder, bobbin thread running out mid-project might not be a big hassle. If you rely on your machine to wind bobbins, though, running out means stopping your work, re-threading your machine to wind a bobbin and then setting it back up to sew. To prevent this headache, when you have a few spare moments, wind a few bobbins in your most commonly used colors. If you have a project in mind, wind a couple of bobbins in the needed colors. Keep extra bobbins on hand and wind at least one for every different thread color you have. 

Pre-winding extra bobbins makes this notice less annoying.

Clean your machine

Lint, threads and dust build up over time and can cause poor stitch quality or even damage your machine. It’s a good idea to make a habit of brushing the debris out at the end of each project, or during projects with linty fabrics.

If the inside of your machine looks like this, you should probably clean it more often.

Periodically you’ll want to vacuum out your machine to really clean it. Vacuum attachments made for cleaning computers work well for this. Some people use canned air, but that’s not recommended. It pushes some of the debris deeper into your machine.

Oil your machine

Once your machine is thoroughly clean, take a moment to oil it according to your manual. This will keep it running smoothly and reduce the need for costly repairs. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find one online. 

After oiling, always sew a few rows on scrap fabric to soak up excess oil. That way, you won’t risk ruining a project with oil spots. 

Tidy up

The best practice is to put away tools and excess fabric as you go. It’s easy to get distracted and forget, though. Taking a moment here and there to run through your sewing area to tidy up when you aren’t working on a project can save sewing time later.

Keep a shopping list

Nothing is more annoying than having to stop work because you ran out of a necessary supply. Make note of supplies that are low or that have run out on a notepad to take on your next shopping trip.

Prewash fabric

Unless you know your final project will never be washed, you should always prewash your fabric. One way to make sure this happens is to wash it as soon as you bring it home from the store. You could also work it into your usual laundry schedule. Having a prewashing routine prevents delaying a project or worse, giving in to the temptation to make something and have your final product ruined in the wash.

Tip: Serging or zig-zag stitching the cut edges will prevent excess fraying in the wash.https://subearthancottage.com/random-sewing-tip-painless-prewash

These are the chores that, for me, are the biggest sewing time-wasters when neglected. Please share your dreaded sewing chores and tips to keep them from becoming time-wasters in the comments.

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Paw Patrol and Using My Brother SE-400 Embroidery Machine

Thaddeus turns three next week! When asked what he wants for his birthday, he exclaims, “Paw Patrol stuuuuuufff!” He is also constantly asking me to sew basically the entire cast of Paw Patrol for him. I may be crafty, but that is a bit beyond my skill set. So, since I have a lovely embroidery machine that doesn’t get used nearly enough, I thought I’d purchase a Paw Patrol design set for my machine.

The set came from Etsy seller OhMyArtDesigns. It comes with all the main pups, Rider, Robo Dog, and the Paw Patrol Logo. They also come in a few different sizes and file types to accommodate different brands and machines. So far, I love the designs. The stitch density is great, and they have a lot of detail. The only problems I’ve had fall completely in the “user error” category.

Color Charts Matter

My first mistake was using the thread colors displayed on the machine and my manual chart to choose my threads.

The thread colors and names used by different machine brands varies, so if a design is drafted using different colors than yours, the color suggestions can seem a bit off. I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention to the color chart provided by the designer, so some of my color choices weren’t quite right.

Everest would be less blue if I had used the appropriate chart. Lesson learned. This also highlights the need to test run any new patterns before stitching them on your final product. Embroidery machine stitching is so dense that it’s almost impossible to remove without ruining the fabric.

Hoop Tightly

The other problem I encountered is also easily fixed. I just need to learn how to hoop my fabric properly. If you look closely, you can see the black outline on both Everest and Rider strays from the edge of the design on one side. I still have trouble getting the fabric and stabilizer drum-taut, so by the time the outline is stitched, the design stitches puckered the fabric in places. I have a magnetic hoop set on my wish list to see if that would help, but honestly it’s probably a case of needing more practice. Considering how many pups I have left to stitch, I may be an expert at hooping by the end of the week!

It is so fun to watch the designs being sewn. It’s like putting together a puzzle.

Everest after stitching the first color.


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Easy fix for worn out denim jeans

I have a pair of denim blue jeans that are still in good shape except for where my thighs touch. There they are really worn on one side and there is a hole on the other. Because of where the hole was located, I wasn’t comfortable even wearing them around the house, so I decided to try a simple fix.

First, I ironed lightweight fusible interfacing on the inside of the worn areas, making sure to completely cover all the worn out spots with the interfacing.

Once it was fused and cooled down, I turned them right side out. Using a narrow zig-zag, I stitched back and forth over the hole and worn areas. This serves to secure the interfacing and add strength.

If you can, drop or cover the feed dogs on your sewing machine in order to be able to move the jeans freely under the needle. The machine I used doesn’t have a way to drop them and I don’t have the special foot plate to cover them. Instead, I used a combination of repositioning and forward and reverse stitching to make it work.

Depending on the location, you could use contrasting thread and decorative stitches to turn the repair into an embellishment.

I also have a pair of jeans I love, but they needed a button sewn back on. They were also always a little short, so I replaced the button and let out the hem while watching TV one evening. These are heavier denim, so it will be another month or two before I can wear them much, but at least they are ready.

Buttons!

These have an obvious line where the hem used to be, but they’re cute so I don’t care.

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Children’s Messenger Bag

This morning I made a messenger bag using Merriment Design’s Kid-sized Messenger Bag Free Pattern and Sewing Tutorial. The size is also nice for a small messenger-style purse.

Her tutorial is awesome, so I’m just going to share the minor change I made. Instead of making a fabric strap, I used some webbing I had on hand. Not only did that save time, but it allowed me to make the whole thing with two fat quarters. You could also use a thick ribbon, upcycle an old belt or an old purse strap for the handle.

I like using a light colored fabric for the lining in most bags I make. It makes it easier to find whatever is inside.

The fabric is from a fat quarter bundle I found at Tuesday Morning. I always find fun things in their sewing and craft section.

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Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!