Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Beginner Sewing Series: Bobbins

Today, we are talking about bobbins in our Beginner Sewing Series.  I know, they aren't the most exciting tool in your sewing basket but they are very important.

What is a bobbin?  They are round discs that hold the bottom thread in your sewing machine.  For a sewing machine to operate, you need a top thread and a bottom thread.  You wind your own bobbins, with the thread color that you need, using the bobbins that came with your sewing machine or ones that you purchased for it.

How many bobbins do I need?  When you purchase a sewing machine, you typically are given 4 bobbins.  Check the little bag that came with your machine that holds the extra presser feet and needles.  Can't find the bag?  Take off your free arm and check in the secret compartment. I used to tell students that 10-20 bobbins where ideal (depending on how much you sew).  You don't want to have to take one color thread off a bobbin to put another color on when you might use that other color again soon.

What type of bobbin do I need?  As you can see from the above picture, there are metal bobbins and plastic bobbins. You want to use the type of bobbin that came with your machine.  For most modern machines, that will be plastic bobbins.  Plastic bobbins hold up just fine and don't wear out very easily.  I can't even remember the last time that I threw out a plastic bobbin because it was no longer useable.   Maybe you were given a machine and are not sure which bobbins came with the machine?  Look in the sewing machine manual or if you do not have one, you can find many of the sewing manuals online.  I have even Googled a machine's model number (which can be found on the machine) to see which bobbins the machine requires.

Now, just to be clear, not all plastic bobbins are the same.  I cannot tell you how many times a student has gone to the sewing store and just picked up a pack of plastic bobbins thinking they were all the same.  Take a look at the below you see the difference between the two bobbins?

The bobbin on the left is taller and larger than the one on the right.  These bobbins are NOT interchangeable in sewing machines for obvious reasons.  The left one is a Brother SA156 bobbin which is what most of the modern Brother sewing machines use.  The bobbin on the right is a Singer Class 66 bobbin that mainly older (think 1990's) Singer machines use.  Both are sold at local sewing stores like Joann Fabrics.  Newer Singer machines use the Class 15 bobbin.

The metal bobbins also have different sizes so I would check your manual to see what size you need. Metal bobbins are most often used in electrical sewing machines that are not computerized but some sewing machines brands do still use them.

By best bobbin advice, if you purchased your sewing machine from a local independent sewing machine dealer, go back and buy your bobbins from them to ensure that you are getting the correct ones.  If you inherited your machine, bought it second hand, or ordered it via the internet, do some research right now to make sure that you know the correct.  If you are still not sure and need help, please leave a comment below or email me at and I will be glad to help you.

Note: There are some links in this post to products that you can purchase and I do earn a small affiliate fee when they are purchased with my link.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beginner Sewing Series - Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles

Even if you have had your sewing machine for some time, you may be new to buying sewing machine needles.  At the first day of my beginner sewing classes, we used to go over the basics of sewing machine needles and I wanted to share this information with you today.

Sewing machine needles will need to be changed often.  You may get about 8 hours of sewing out of each needle.  Needles will also break and bend so they may need to be changed sooner than that.  If you are not sure how to change the sewing machine needle in your machine,  please check out a tutorial that I posted HERE on how to change the needle.

 What type of sewing machine needles should you buy?  There are two types of needles that I encourage beginner students to purchase and have on hand in case one breaks/bends.  When you purchase a sewing machine, you will get a couple of extras but these are easy to pick up on sale when the local sewing store has their sewing notions on sale for half off.  This is one supply you don't want to be caught without because it will halt your sewing to a dead stop.

Universal Needles

Schmetz is a very good brand of needles and can be purchase at almost any sewing store.  Universal needles can be used on woven fabrics and some knits (more on that later).  If you look at the bottom of the package,  you will see numbers like "80/12" and "90/14".  Those are the sizes for the needles.  For medium weight fabrics like quilting cottons, you will need to use a size 80/12 needle (that is the size that is normally in each of my machines for normal use).  If you want to sew on denim or heavier duck fabric or home decor fabric, I would change the needle to a 90/14.  The higher the size numbers, the thicker the fabric and vice versa.  I have size 8 needles for a handkerchief weight fabric that I have. You will probably use universal needles the majority of the time.

Ball Point/Jersey Needles

For sewing with knit fabrics, I prefer to switch over to a ball point/jersey needle.  The universal needle packages say that you can use them on some knits but I just prefer to switch to the ball point.  The size recommendations are the same....I use the 80/12 on most all of the knits that I sew.  I think I own some 90/14's but I couldn't tell you the last time that I used them because I normally don't sew on heavy, stretchy fabrics.  
There are many other types of needles at the store (denim, leather, microtex, embroidery, etc) but Universal and Jersey/Ball Point are the two most common types of needles for home use.  Certainly if you need to repair a leather purse or hem your hubby's heavy work jeans, look for a needle specific to that need.  Honestly, I use a size 14 universal needle when sewing on denim as most denim in fashion clothing nowadays is not real heavy.  

Schmetz has gone ahead and color coded the tops of their needles so we can tell which type of needle we have in the machine (that was really helpful by the way).  All needles do have the size engraved on the top of the needle but it can be hard to see, even with reader glasses (I wouldn't know anything about that though).

And if you are about to start a big project (aka curtains or pillows for every room in your house) and you can't remember the last time you changed the needle, go ahead and change it.  Sewing with a dull needle just isn't worth it.  You will experience skipped stitches and may even have your thread break continuously.  

I hope that these tips help and if you have any sewing machine needle questions, please leave it in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It's Good To Be Home

These past 4 weeks have been busy ones so I have taken a short hiatus from sewing, blogging or working on Etsy.  It started with family coming to visit in the middle of March and our twin girls having a very busy week before Spring Break.

For Spring Break, the girls and I travelled to NY to visit my mom who had major surgery back in January and is still recovery and going through therapy.  She is not able to drive so we ran a lot of errands and helped her clean around the house.  We drove up on a Saturday and came home the following Friday.

We had enough time to do laundry and then re-pack our bags before we headed off on the Junior High History trip with our girls school.  The girls and I had a great time visiting civil war battlefields in Tennessee and Georgia but we were ready to come home after the three days.

Now I am back home and have jumped back into sewing and catching up on everything!  We will continue our Beginner Sewing Series tomorrow with a lesson on sewing machine needles.

But until then, here are some pictures of a special project that I finished before we left.  Last year, my sister in-law asked me if I would make a memory pillow for her mother in-law (Judy).  I was to use a hand embroidered blouse that Judy's mom had made, for this special project.  Here are some pictures of the blouse as I cut the pillow pieces:

I used EVERYTHING I could from this blouse, including the sleeves.  There actually was a decent amount of fabric in the long sleeved blouse.  I saved as much of the embroidery as I could and here is the finished item.

Judy bought the lace to be added around the edge and I was able to cut enough fabric to make the ruffle behind it.  The pillow has a zipper at the bottom to easily remove the pillow form inside.  Finished size is 14"x14" which is a decent size to get from a shirt/blouse.  I was nervous to cut everything so this is definitely a project where you measure three times and cut once!!

Don't forget to come back tomorrow as we continue our sewing series and talk about what type of sewing machine needles to buy and when to change them!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Day 1 - Beginner Sewing Series - Basic Sewing Tools

Today is the start of a new series on sewing!  I will be covering the information that I covered in my adult beginner sewing classes.  Some of the topics we may cover quickly and some we will linger on but I want to open things up to discussion so please leave your comment or question in the comments section of the applicable blog post.  If you prefer to email me your questions, you can do so at  

Let's Get Started!!!

When students come to the first class, they want to know what sewing tools they will need to purchase that will help them in sewing.  These are things that they NEED...the sewing store has a gazillion sewing tools but what do you really need?  These are all things that I could not live without in sewing on a daily basis.

Here is a picture of the handout with the list that I gave in class.  You can save it and take it to the store with you.  We will go over the first 6 bullets today and then linger over the last items as they need more explanation.


Well, this one seems a bit obvious but when you go to the store there is a wall full of scissors.  You will need a pair of scissors for sewing (we will go over those in a minute) and a junky pair of scissors for cutting paper pattern pieces or cutting off the ends of a zipper.  We ALL have a junky pair laying around so you probably have that one covered.  

In terms of a good pair of sewing scissors, here is what to look for:

~ About 8" long
~ Bent handle shears (can you see how the handle is bent in the pictures?  This is to help with cutting on a table)
~ Buy a name brand like Fishers or Gingher (try to resist the no-name scissors that Hancock Fabrics is trying to sell you at the counter)
~ ONLY use them for fabric use...yes, lock them away from your husband and children because they will find them and use them on awful things! Using them only on fabric (and keeping them away from your family) will help to keep them sharp.

Scissors don't have to be a huge investment.  Every store now is sending you a coupon in an email or they have an app with coupons.  Grab a coupon and buy a decent pair of scissors.  The top pair in the picture is a basic sewing pair from Fiskars, the middle is a spring loaded pair which helps if you have wrist issues, and the last pair (my favorite) are a pair of Gingher scissors (they are extremely sharp!).    

And this picture shows my junky, non-bent handled scissors at the bottom.  See the difference in how they look? (Ignore the paint on the handle).


You will need to buy some long, straight pins if you don't already have some.  I like the longer pins with the big ball heads on them.  This makes them MUCH easier to work with and if you drop one you can find it before your child or husband steps on it (ask me how I know).

This picture shows the varying sizes...I would buy pins that are AT LEAST 1" long...a little longer would be perfect.  I would buy pins in the sewing notions sections of the sewing store (Dritz or Singer) and avoid the cutesy pins with flower/decorative heads on them.  I have those and the metal tips of the pins aren't very sharp so it is hard to make them go through fabric.

The last pin in that picture is a tailor's pin and sometimes they will come with clothing you purchase.  Yes, I keep them but they are shorter and the lack of head makes them no fun to work with.  


Okay, so if you have ever taken a class of mine, you know that I have a thing for pincushions.  I have 8 that I can see around the room right now. 

You probably don't need that many but I would suggest having two once you get into sewing. Here is the pincushion to take pins out of wherever you decide to cut fabric and pin pieces together and another pincushion to have next to your machine to put pins into as you take them out of the fabric.  

Can you tell which pincushion gets used the most?

There are lots of free pincushion patterns on the internet and you can find a couple of them over on the right sidebar plus I will do a future post just on pincushion patterns that you can make.

Tape Measure and Seam Gauge

You probably know what a tape measure looks like (the blue measuring tape).  I would suggest one that is 60" long.  I have a longer one but I never use it for anything over 60".  You mainly use it to measure pillows or yourself or your children.  If you need to measure for curtains, use one of the retractable metal hardware measuring tapes as those work better for those.

A seam gauge is a small (usually about 6") ruler with a sliding piece on it (mine has the red sliding piece).  This is one of the cheapest sewing tools and one that I use on almost a daily basis to measure hems with.  If you want to hem pants, the top of a bag, dress, skirt, pillowcase, etc, this little tool will be your best friend.  I will post later on how to use it for hemming when we get to that part of this series.  You may already own one of these. I find that most people do...they just didn't know what to do with it!

Seam Ripper

You will make mistakes.  The machine will act up on you when you are trying to fix something at the last minute before a school concert.  You will not like how something looks after you sew it sometimes.  This is where the seam ripper comes into the picture.  

If you have a sewing machine, chances are you have one in the little bag with the extra presser feet that came with the machine.  They are tiny though. Mine is the one on the right.  My sister purchased the one on the left for me after she laughed at the before mentioned one.  The one in the middle is a very common that you can find in most any store.  All will work!  I do like the bigger handled ones.  They are easier to hold.  Sister was right.

Fabric marking pencil, marker or chalk

You will need something to mark your fabric with.  Go simple with this one to start with.  Here is what I have on hand:

You can buy a pack of two tailor's chalks.  One light for dark fabrics and one darker for light fabrics.  I use these if I just need a simple mark.  The bottom pencil is a washout cloth pencil.  It is like chalk but in a pencil form.  The middle pink pen (isn't she pretty) is a Frixion pen which is probably my favorite to use.  When you iron over it, the mark disappears.  WITH ALL OF THESE THOUGH, I would only use them on the wrong side of the fabric or where the mark wouldn't show if in case the mark doesn't come out (yes, it has happened).  If you need to mark a spot that will show afterwards, I would suggest a pin or a piece of tape that can be removed without the fabric being damaged.  *Frixion pens can be found in office supply stores and not in sewing stores usually.

WOW!  That was a lot of information for the first post!  Students were always surprised by all that we covered on the first day class and WE AREN'T DONE YET!  

Stay the next post, we will cover more sewing tools...the rotary cutter, mat and ruler.  A wonderful set of tools to help make cutting easier!

Thank you for joining me today!  If you want to be notified of when blog posts are posted, you can enter your email on the right sidebar in the spot to be notified of new posts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Etsy Shop Update: Catheter Bag Covers and New Items

Hi Everyone!

Sorry that things have been so quiet here lately (cue the crickets).  It seems that life has once again swept our family away with its current but we are enjoying some quiet time right now before our daughters are busy again with school life events.

Last year, I launched my Etsy shop and mainly focused on catheter bag cover and other wheelchair accessories as inspired by my friend Cathy.  I was able to sell quite a few over the holidays and therefore needed to replenish my stock!

Here are some of bag sets that are currently listed in my Etsy Shop (you can visit my shop by clicking on the "Shop" link at the top of this page.

Now I know what you are thinking...not everyone is interested in these types of items so you are in luck!  I also list other small accessories and will be starting to list my purse clutches that I have been making.  Here is a sneak peak of one:

If you are on Etsy, I would LOVE it if you would show my shop some love by clicking on the Shop link above, and favoriting my little shop.  This way, you will see the updates of the new items being released soon and others, who may have a loved one in a wheelchair, can see those accessories when they follow you!

Don't forget to also follow us on Facebook.  I will be starting a tutorial series very soon and you won't want to miss it!