Today is Dart Day!  Hooray!

OK, now that I have that out of my system, I want to share with you a couple of little tricks I’ve picked up at night school.  Some of you will undoubtedly already know them but they’re not common knowledge.

Pattern makers don’t bother with time saving measures for home sewing.  However I’m yet to meet a home sewer who liked making darts.  There are many ways of marking them, and all are tedious.  All involve a lot of fiddling around, visually checking from one side of the fabric to another to make sure that all the marks line up.  Or thousands of pins. And it can be so hard to get them to the same length.

Professional sewers don’t have time to spare and they can’t afford to unpick and start again, so they use a combination of notches and drill holes.  It takes much less time, and it goes together better.  You should try it too!  You will need a tailor’s awl.  They’re very, very cheap.

First of all: what are you doing cutting around those crazy little diamonds in your patterns?  It’s not accurate and it slows you down.  Just cut clear around your pattern and then make notches no deeper than half the seam allowance.  Seriously.  Don’t be scared of damaging your garment.  Unless you’re using a flimsy fabric like silk chiffon, you won’t.

Try it, really.  In all your sewing.  Notches are awesome.  Diamonds are annoying.  OK, on to the dart.  First notch the tops of the dart.

Then get your tailor’s awl.  Stick it in through pattern and fabric, 1cm (1/2 inch) above the apex of the dart.  Really, it’s OK!  The awl is so sharp that it won’t tear your fabric.  It might break a thread but more likely it will just push threads out of the way and make a mark that will slip back into place with a little bending of fabric.  Besides, you are using the awl inside the dart.  The marked fabric won’t ever be under stress and it isn’t part of your garment.  It’s more like seam allowance than anything else.

Now the fun part!  Fold the dart over on itself as usual.  Isn’t it easy to line the tops up?  And all you need to do to make sure it’s lining up straight is to get the awl mark sitting flush with the fold.

Sew the dart as usual, starting with the notches and sewing past the awl point by that 1cm or 1/2 inch.  The last few stitches should only catch one thread.  I could have done better in the example below, but it’s good enough.  Tie the threads off and press.

Now, go forth and conquer!

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Plenty of quilters will fussy cut to get geometric patterns happening in their hexagons, but I’m going to show you something with a twist:  how to use large prints and motifs.  Such as this beautiful bird print.  I wish I could remember the name of it so I could get more, but as I have only a tiny amount left I want to preserve it in my quilt.  However the birds are each twice the size of my patches.

Though I haven’t shown it here, this is a great opportunity to use print motifs that have been sliced in half when your length of fabric has been cut from the roll, or are near the selvedge.  It also creates a sense of movement and difference, when it’s sewn in with plainer flowers, that I like a lot.

First, lay a patch over one motif.  You will need two motifs so two opposite halves, or one half and one whole, work nicely.  Consider carefully where the edge will go and how the patch will sit in your overall design.  Cut around the patch, leaving a generous — and I mean generous, like half an inch — seam allowance.

Pin the patch to the back of your paper and baste with your preferred method.  Then lay it over your second motif.

Nice!  You can hardly tell there’s a patch on there.  OK, now you need to lay a second paper patch nest door and pin it in place. 

Cut again, using another generous seam allowance.  With the pin still in place, finger press the fabric around the paper to mark placement.  Then remove the pin and move the paper to the back.  

The next step is the trickiest stage.  You will need to reposition the paper exactly, which usually means a couple of tries for me.  Take care that the sides match up as nicely as the long side.

Baste the paper to the second patch.  Check that everything’s still in place.  If not, you will have to take the basting out and try again — like I said, you need to have a lot of seam allowance and it’s fiddly.  But it’s worth it, as long as you’re not trying to fussy cut an entire quilt!    O_o 

Match them up and…

Sew together as per usual into…

A birdy flower!  Hooray!   Now you may cut away that bulky excess seam allowance.

Try this out for yourself — and please tell me in the comments if anything seems confusing, I’ll edit the tutorial. 

I have been very lax with blogging and I do apologise but on the up side, I have a super-exciting new project which I hope I can share with you soon.  In the mean time, there’s a special post coming up next in which I will share a way of making darts that will change your life for the better!  See you soon…

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Remember me?  No?  I don’t blame you.  I’ve been pretty distant from the blog lately, what with night school, homework, *real* work, keeping the house — well, certainly not clean, but at least mostly navigable and waterproof — and starting a small business!  Agh!  Oh, and there’s that wedding thing I should be planning!!

But I do have something to show for myself.  Would you like to make a vintage sheet cushion?  I’ve written a pattern and it’s over in my Etsy store now for the bargain price of $5.  The pattern is suited to any fabric, really, but I’ve developed it with an interfacing method that’s super-good for preserving and making the most of precious scraps that have seen better days.

Oh, and to all of you who are teeming over (yes, that’s the word I want) from tipnut.com — hi!  Stick around and join the conversation 🙂

Edited 24 September to add:  if you like this tutorial, check out my new pattern for matching cushions!  It’s available as PDF or printed pattern, is in my Etsy store now and uses a new interfacing method which is not only quicker than most patchwork, but also super-good for supporting precious but aged scraps of fabric.

As promised, a post that is not about my garden. Nor is it about my wedding, a fact that will surely astound any friends and family who are reading this!

I made a custom order about two months ago from vintage sheets.  Much like my Grandma’s Vintage Sheet Quilt, these matching twin quilts are made from sheets and pillowcases from the 60s and 70s: the kinds of sheets we had in our house when I was growing up, as well as the kinds of sheets I wish we had.  I took pictures along the way and thought that others might be interested in a tutorial.

This is the simplest kind of quilt I’ve ever made and it can be constructed with nothing more than a sewing machine, a flat space, and an iron.  It breathes new life, beauty and strength into sheets that have worn in some places: worn and faded patches can be discarded, and the good fabric kept.  Experienced patchworkers might feel a little impatient to get past the details in these instructions.  I’ve deliberately tried to make it simple, because a vintage sheet quilt is the perfect low-cost, high-reward first quilt for a newbie.

First, cut out your pieces and arrange in a pleasing pattern.  I used a large square cut from an A4 piece of paper as my template, drawing around it with a soft pencil.  Those who have fast cutting equipment will doubtless prefer to use that at this stage.

Then sew some strips together and iron seams flat. In these single bed quilts, I went for eight squares across, so I built in fours. If placement is important, place a pin in the bottom right hand patch.  Then you’ll always know which way is up when you go to replace the strip in your arrangement.

Then sew fours together into eights, and so on…

…until you have one half sewn together! Again, use a pin in the bottom right hand corner.

Then pin and sew the two halves together. At this stage you can lay it over some batting and backing.  When putting your three layers together, tack them together in an all over criss- cross pattern, or use a series of safety pins (this last option is better for everyday use quilts than those you’d like to be *perfect*.  Now quilt it.

Alternatively you can lay it over a second full sheet and tie it together.  A lovely example of a simple, tied coverlet can be found here. I used soft flanelette for these quilts.  With any other style of quilt, I’d use cotton backing because flannelette doesn’t last forever.  But let’s face it: vintage sheet quilts aren’t going to last into your grandkids’ lifetimes.  They’re soft and they’re for enjoying now.

Bind the quilt with commercially purchased bias binding, or cheat by folding and sewing a pretty ribbon around the raw edges 🙂

That’s a whole quilt — or in this case, two quilts — made with no more equipment than a sewing machine and an iron.

Then find yourself a picturesque cat.

And you’re done.

Flickr set is here.

This is the first tutorial I’ve done at pinsandthimbles.  Did it make sense?  I’d be grateful for any suggestions you might have!