Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Magnetic Pin Catcher

August 12th, 2021 No comments

A couple of years ago a new deodorant came on the market. It was fabulous! No chemicals, easy to apply, fresh, almost non-existent and natural scent, and it worked. Best of all, the container was refillable. Green all the way!

It was called Myro, and, despite being almost universally loved, it failed spectacularly, due to its propensity to leak all over itself, cabinets, shelves, and anywhere it was placed. Gel all over, ugh.

Read more…

Categories: Misc, Tips, Tools Tags:

A Tale of Two Dummies

April 17th, 2012 6 comments

Now that I am finally the size I was meant to be (and was, for what were previously the healthiest years of my adult life), I thought it would be interesting to compare my “dummies”.  I haven’t been the same size as my Duct Tape Dummy for a long time, but it was still a shock to see the difference between the two:

Miss Bedelia, the My Double dress form, is set at my actual height.  My unnamed Duct Tape Dummy is higher, but it’s still possible to compare the shapes.  You can see that they are essentially the same; the DTD is just, well, thickened everywhere.

There are only ten to twelve  pounds difference between those two dummies, but on someone as relatively small as I am, that’s a big difference.  It’s probably closer to an extra 20 or 30 pounds on someone with a larger frame and larger bones than I have.  Here’s the back view:

When I was a young girl, I took one semester of classes at a very good dancer’s school in San Francisco.  (Childhood wasn’t so competitive then; they’d let anyone in.)  All I remember from that course was my report card, in which the instructor had written something like “Noile must learn to pull in her derrière”.

I had to laugh when I saw these dummies side by side — it’s not so obvious in the well-padded DTD, but, oh, yes, there is that derrière!  Though my upper body posture has improved in the last few years, I’ve clearly still got some work to do when it comes to tucking in that backside:

Can we say “swayback”??  Yikes!

Fitting the My Double dummy took two of us; it’s virtually impossible to do it alone.  (We’ve done it twice, now.)  Mr. Noile pinched, pushed, and pulled very patiently, and then we unsnapped it and sprung me from the carapace.

Mr. Noile was impressed when we were done:  “The amazing thing”, he said, “is that it looks just like you!”.  He’s right; it really does.  Or rather, it would if I were made of wire mesh.

When I reassembled Miss Bedelia on her stand, I checked the waist against my own measurement, and quickly realized that she was about two inches larger all around than my own body.

That made sense.  You can’t really press the wire sufficiently into skin in order to replicate a body perfectly.  However, you can get the basic shape, so all I did was evenly pinch out the extra inches where shaping was not an issue (mostly, that is, in the sides).   I checked every measurement carefully against my own as I worked, and soon Miss Bedelia was ready to go.


“My Double” Instruction Booklet

Miss Bedelia: My New Dress Form

Replacement Rods for “My Double” Dress Form

(Yes, the weight loss was deliberate, and very slow, over many months. I decided that I didn’t want to age with the burden of additional weight damaging my joints, affecting my coordination, and limiting my ability to be active and flexible.

Yes, it’s a pain.  Yes, it requires constant attention, and a complete review of what “portion size” means to those of us who live in the abundant USA.  But it is worth it.  It’s also worth doing it very slowly.  Unless you change habits, no “diet” will prevent weight from returning.

No “diet” here, by the way.  Just eating reasonably healthy food, recording everything I ate — accountability makes a huge difference — and  controlling portion sizes without fail.  I used the budget plan — so many calories a day to “spend”, and nothing eaten after that total was reached — three meals and a small snack, and no eating after 7 PM.  If I stayed up too late and wanted a snack, I reminded myself that I’d have another chance to “spend” calories tomorrow.  This is the lifetime plan, not the get-skinny-for-the-next-event plan.

The trick was finding out what worked best for me, long-term, not trying to adapt to someone else’s idea of what you might find satisfying.  The difficult part for me was identifying which tastes I love; I had a hard time, at first, learning what I enjoyed tasting, since I used to eat without paying much attention.  Then I gradually began slipping these new, enjoyable, flavors into my diet, and training myself to notice and enjoy them.

Oh, also critical for me:  identifying non-food rewards.  If over-eating is how you get through the day, it makes a big difference if you replace detrimental choices with other interests or diversions. Just eliminating bad food choices usually isn’t enough, long-term, for people like me who, for instance, tend to think of sugar as the food of the deities.  It’s really important to replace bad choices with good ones; just trying to eliminate the bad choices/habits usually doesn’t work too well for humans.

By the way, a fascinating book about related issues is “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.  It’s a great read for anyone who wonders why habits are so hard to break.  However, I think the oft-mentioned Target anecdote — it’s about a teen pregnancy — is probably apocryphal.   Just my opinion.)

Categories: Fun, Tips, Tools Tags:

Buttons Galore

July 23rd, 2011 6 comments

I think JoAnn’s just supplied me with the button box of my dreams.  It’s sad, though:  At least in my area, JoAnn isn’t  going to carry JHB buttons any longer.  I walked into our local stores and discovered that all JHB buttons were on clearance, priced at 25 cents to 97 cents.

Here’s the haul, spread out on a table:

Guess I won’t be buying buttons for years!  It might be worth a trip to your own local JoAnn to see what you can score, although the walls I encountered were well-stripped even before I got to them — my haul was fron the dregs.

Some dregs!  I’m a happy camper, but sad that this line won’t be locally available any more.

By the way, I stapled like cards together before tossing them in the box.  That way I’ll know exactly how many of each set I have without undertaking a frantic search when I need specific buttons later.

Categories: Misc, Tips Tags:

Making a Reversible Tank

July 6th, 2011 5 comments

Trena asked me to share my method for making reversible sleeveless tops like the ones in my wardrobe plan.  I’m glad she did, because when I sat down to make the one right after her request, I completely blanked on how to make this thing work!  So, as much for my sake as anyone else’s, here’s how it goes.  (These instructions are for knit fabrics; without a closure, you’ll need the stretch to get in and out of your garment.)  Here’s the first one I made:

To prepare:  Select a tank top (or dress) pattern and do any alterations needed.  If you use one like Christine Jonson’s BaseWear One Top 622, one reversible top will give you four looks, since the back and front can be reversed, as well as the inner and outer fabrics.  (Check to see if you need to make any alterations to the back to allow room for your bust first, though.)

But on with the instructions:

First, cut out two complete tanks, front and back.  No facings or bindings; just the fronts and backs.  You’re essentially lining your tank, so  you won’t need those extras.  (You could make a tank top or a tank dress using this method, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to use the word “tank” to cover both.). You will need seam allowances, though, so if your pattern calls for binding, make sure you’ve added the seam allowance you prefer before cutting.

Sew only the side seams together. Here they are, both layers, with only the side seams stitched:

Arrange the tanks so that the right sides are together, one tank inside the other.  Stitch around both armholes and both necklines (front and back). DO NOT stitch the shoulder seams!  Here are the tanks with just the armholes and necklines stitched. They’re arranged so that you can see the black contrast, but the two tanks are now joined:

Beginning with the garment lying flat as in the picture above, take one shoulder strap, and pull it out of the garment so that you are looking at the right sides of that one strap.  You should have one strap that is wrong side out, some fabric bunched in the middle, and one strap right side out:

(Sorry, I’m all about the sewing, not so much about the photography.  What we’ve got here is the “wrong side out strap” on the left, the bunched tank fabric in the middle, and the “right side out strap” on the right.)

Update: Same view of another tank, same position:

Hold onto the “right side” strap and push it through INTO the “wrong side” strap.  Make sure the CORRECT strap pieces are meeting!  Don’t do any crossovers here .  .  .  keep those straps on the correct side of your garment.

Notice what just happened?  You’ve got “right-sides-to-right-sides” for one shoulder strap.  Just what you want!

Update: Here’s a view of a different top, from a different angle, looking down into the same strap as the one shown above, after the edges have been evened up:

Trim before you stitch; you’ll be glad you did.

Your straps will be open at the top of the armhole shoulders, and there will be a seam going from the bottom of the armhole to the hem of your garment.  If that seam’s not in the right place .  .  .  weeeelllll, then you’re probably joining a neckline instead of an armhole.  Don’t do that!

Make the edges of the straps even, matching the seams carefully, and making sure that your straps haven’t twisted, and that each fabric is right side to itself.  Both sides of my black fabric are right sides together; ditto for the blue sides.  Black to black, blue to blue. (Update:  Print to print, solid to solid.) You’ll see that you’ve made a small circle with the straps, and you can look down into the tube that will soon be the inside of your finished tank straps. (Update:  Exactly as in the updated image above.)

Baste, pin, or take your chances — your straps are now ready to stitch!

Stitch all around the tiny circle you’ve made with your “right sides together” straps.  Don’t be misled by the photo below:  DO NOT stitch across all four strap layers.  It looks as if that’s what I did here — NOT SO!  You should be stitching only TWO layers all around the top of your straps, forming a tube, NOT closing the tube by sewing it shut.

This is what the stitching looks like, finished and folded so that the two contrasting sides show:

Repeat for the second strap.

Then reach inside your tank, and turn it right side out.  Voilà!  All you have left to do is edge-stitch around the armholes and neckline and then hem all around.

A few tips:

  • I let my hems float freely; sometimes I cut one side longer, so that I have a stripe effect at the bottom of one side.  This eliminates the “how on earth do I get the hems to stay perfectly in line?” problem.
  • Putting lightweight, nylon snaps between layers at the side seams (or even along the hems, for a tank dress) can help keep floating hems aligned, yet let you separate the layers for faster drying.  (Great for travel!)
  • If you’re using a serger, change your outside needle’s thread to match one side of your tank, and then serge with that side facing up.  (I’m assuming the rest of your cone threads will be consonant with your second color.)  That way, if your seams flex, it’s more likely that any thread color showing will match the side being worn.
  • When edge-stitching, use one contrast in the bobbin, and one in the machine needle.  Check your tension carefully to be sure that your stitches are even, and that the opposing color isn’t showing through on the contrast side.
  • Better yet, choose either two prints for your tank, making sure that they share at least one color that you can use for stitching all over (hides a multitude of sins), or use one solid and one consonant print.  Either choice will be more forgiving when it comes to edge-stitching:  Use the solid color for edge-stitching, and it should disappear into the consonant print on the other side.
  • If you don’t want a reversible tank, you can use this method to line a tank with a lightweight mesh.  It’s faster than binding, and gives a really professional look to your finished garment.
  • If you’re into color-blocking, use a different color for each of the four sides of your tank.  Your backs and fronts won’t match, but you’ll have that many  more looks, and you might like the effect!

This whole process may seem counter-intuitive, and may be confusing the first time you try it, especially if you’re impatient!  But it’s actually very easy to do, and, once you understand it, very easy to repeat, especially if you bookmark this page!

Update 7/19/2011: Two additional photos to (hopefully) clarify things.

Categories: Dresses, Tips, Tops Tags:

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

June 20th, 2011 7 comments

Here’s the illustration from the cjpatterns site, which is, as usual, pretty but not useful.  The tank, in particular, has a lot more shape in execution than you’d ever guess from the illustration.  It looks blocky and puffy in the drawing, but in reality it’s actually got a nice, body-hugging shape.

This tank isn’t meant to be reversible, but I decided that’s what I wanted, per my wardrobe plan.  I used a print/solid combination; here’s the print side, with the V-neck worn in front:

I made the solid side an inch and a half longer, so that it would show under the print.  Part of my wardrobe plan includes a matching print skirt, and the line of the combined pieces is one long, unrelenting, bright print, so I liked the idea of breaking it up a bit.  Here’s the V-neck version of the solid side:

(Yeah, my dummy lurches to the left.  I probably should compensate for this when taking pictures, but I never remember to.)

This is a super-simple pattern with nice shaping, and the simplest of construction techniques:  It’s meant as exercise wear, so Jonson just has you turn the edges down by 3/8ths of an inch and stitch them in place.  To make my reversible tank, I just used a 3/8ths inch seam on my serger.  No trimming was necessary; the narrow seam and the stretchy spandex fabrics worked well together, and made this one fast project.

The top can easily be worn backwards or frontwards, although I don’t think Jonson points this out, and the instructions don’t offer the reversible alternative, but if you chose to line the top and turn it around at whim, you’ve got lots of wearing options.

Here’s the print side, worn with the round neckline at the front:

When you  make a reversible top, one method involves sewing the hems together, so that they are exactly the same length.  I’m not wild about this; it seems to constrict the flow of the garment and make its movement less “natural”, unless the fabrics involved are weightless.  On the other hand, if the two hems float freely, it’s difficult to keep them lined up perfectly so that the underside doesn’t show when you don’t want it to.  Making one hem intentionally longer solves this problem.

Here’s the round collar side of the solid tank:

Whether you make the hems the same length or not, a useful tip is to sew a small snap at the lower edge of each side seam, inside the garment, between the layers.  This allows you to keep the tanks aligned, but without constraining the fabrics unnecessarily.  If you’re traveling, this also allows you to separate the layers for faster drying if you’re rinsing your garments out in a sink, and hanging them up to dry.

Rather than make an FBA, I cut between sizes at the bust, which was lazy and (ahem) not too bright, especially since I failed to take the armhole back to my proper, smaller size.  This made the top gap along the armholes above the bust.  I considered running elastic thread along the edge between the layers, but ended up using double strands of thread, hidden between the layers and run between the edge stitching and the edge of the garments along the relevant parts of the armholes.  The resulting fix isn’t perfect, but made the top wearable.

Every now and then, someone asks “What’s the point of reversible clothing?   You probably want to wash it between wearings anyway, right?”.  Well, yes.  But a tank like this makes up most easily if lined, so why not make the lining a wearable, different color?  And, of course,  a reversible tank might give you the option to go from day-to-evening by just turning the top around, which might be a bonus when traveling, or staying out for the evening after work.


This is another piece in my Christine Jonson/Threads wardrobe plan.

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Christine Jonson, Tips, Tops Tags:

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

June 14th, 2011 4 comments

Chez Noile is still in chaos, so I needed some quickie sewing projects that would chew up stash and require minimal space in the sewing room.  Also, I need summer clothes, since I’ve done little about acquiring any for years.  The Christine Jonson summer wardrobe from Threads (Issue 155 June/July 2011) became my springboard:

I made up a storyboard to keep my goal firmly in mind, and I even made the Princess Dress, although I’m not much of a dress-wearer.

Not only is the storyboard a great help in keeping me on track, but it’s a marvelous tool for checking and gathering notions.  I used line drawings from Christine’s site (altering at least one neckline according to my whim), and mocked it up on my computer, leaving room (more or less) for swatches.

The next step was to print it it on cardstock and glue my fabric swatches on.  Then I cut a transparent quilting template to fit over the whole thing, which protects it when attached to a clipboard.  With clipboard in hand, heading to the fabric store to pick up whatever thread or notions I need is fast and easy.  Matching colors is a cinch using the storyboard; it’s much easier than managing a slew of loose swatches.

Inevitably, I’ve made a few changes.  I’ve decided not to make the sleeveless vest, since I can’t actually see myself wearing it.  In summer, if I need a wrap, I need it over my arms, to compensate for air-conditioning.  And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the jacket.  Do I make it reversible?  In a print?  And I’m not sure I’ll make the sleeved top from the Princess dress pattern, since I now suspect that, for this particular design, my bust is better balanced with a skirt.

But changes and refinement as I go along are all part of the program.  I’m really enjoying making up a planned wardrobe; I think this is a first for me, and I’m counting on making this my “go-to-it’s-brainless” summer travel wardrobe.

So far, I’ve completed five of the garments, and will be knocking off a few more as I wait on the tradesman’s fancy and the moment I can put the house back together.  Finished are the dress, a reversible top, one skirt, and two pair of leggings.  Reviews to come, and more on the way as I knock off the rest.

Christine Jonson quotes a budget of “just under $400” for nine to twelve garments that yield over twenty outfits.  My costs will run under $70 for all pieces, but I’m not using the premium cotton/lycra fabrics Jonson features.  (I can say “for all pieces” now, because I’m working with a finite number of fabrics, even though I haven’t finished the project.)


Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Storing Au Bonheur Patterns

April 30th, 2011 5 comments

The last batch of Au Bonheur des Petites Mains patterns didn’t come in the marvelous card envelopes in which my first order arrived.   (See the sturdy envelope here; it’s at the end of the post.)  The newest ones came in a folder in side an over-sized cello sleeve.  Perfect to cut shipping costs, and to display the sprightly graphics, but not so good for long-term storage.

These are patterns I intend to treasure for a long time, so I needed something more practical.  First, I ended up laminating the outside folder: front, inside front, and back.  I do this at home, using a box of lamination sheets from an office supply store.

Then I attached a large catalog envelope to the blank page on inside back of the folder.  This gives me a place to store the original pattern, my traced pattern, translations and notes — although I can also write notes on the catalog envelope, too.

The catalog envelopes have a self-stick flap, so I removed a small section from the center of the flap, and use it to close the envelope.  The sticky stuff adheres to the lamination without damaging anything, and the flap can be re-stuck over and over again.

Au Bonheur patterns are printed on lovely, large, sturdy sheets and this is a relatively compact way of storing them while keeping them completely accessible.  The new folder/envelope combination fits nicely into the magazine files I keep in my sewing room, right at hand, just where I want my ABdPM patterns to be.

Categories: ABdPM, Tips Tags:

Edgestitching, and Why I Love It

March 28th, 2011 7 comments

It’s this foot:

I can’t remember if it came with my Pfaff 1229, or if I picked it up somewhere else.  Every other foot for my Pfaff snaps onto the shank, so I’m inclined to think this was an add-on.  However I found it, it’s a fantastic tool for the edgestitching I love.

All I have to do is line up the edge of the material (or the seam)  with the edge of the tiny cutout for my machine’s needle:

This little gadget lets me put a stitching line very, very close to an edge.  Just about perfectly, every time:

I can go around curves with no difficulty, turn sharp corners, and do any other little, fussy thing I want without a glitch, because I can see what I’m doing every step of the way.

Categories: Tips Tags:

Dear Baby Lock . . .

December 29th, 2010 5 comments

.  .  .  please forgive me.  I have slandered you wrongly.  Or maybe I’ve libeled you.  In any case, I was wrong, dreadfully wrong.  Sigh.

Categories: Machines, Tips, Tools Tags:

Serger Stuff Storage

December 28th, 2010 2 comments

The arrival of my new serger has occasioned a few changes around here:  I’ve been motivated to get a bit better organized, at least as far as my new machine and its ancillary bits are concerned.

I’ve previously ranted about the poor quality of the tool storage case that came with the serger (plastic like cardboard!  and it won’t stay shut without a rubberband!):

I’ve replaced it with a plastic box meant for photo storage:

This won’t last forever, either, as it doesn’t have real hinges, but no matter, it will serve for a long time, and probably be easily replaced when the need arises.  It was under two dollars in the junk craft section at JoAnn’s;  it’s meant for 4×6 photos, and is transparent, flat and slim, making it easy to keep handy, as well as to view everything inside.

PS – Don’t EVER store your photos in plastic boxes!  Worst idea ever! But I digress.

Carrying on with the photo theme, though, I store my serger project cards in 4×6 photo sleeves so that I can see them easily:

These, in turn, are stored in a three-ring binder with an elastic closure, so that nothing pops out unexpectedly:

The serger manuals are in the back of the binder

and so is the instruction disc that came with it

I added plastic dividers for the various sections; they give some needed support to the floppy pages.

Last on my list was thread storage.  I’ve been keeping my serger cones in the bottom drawer of my rolling storage bin, which has always been a bad idea.  It’s open, so conditions are a bit dusty (or fuzzy) at times in those drawers, particularly those closest to the floor.

JoAnn’s sells a plastic box specifically for storing over-sized serger thread cones.   Lucky for me someone had torn the cellophane off one of these, so I trotted over to the serger thread bins to try it out before buying. This turned out to be a very good thing.

Not one of the serger cones sold by JoAnn’s fit into the specialty storage box.  Not one! Could anything better illustrate the JoAnn attitude toward its sewing customers?  I’m so glad I didn’t haul that “custom” box home; I hope the clerk who was spared the horror of running it (and me) through the returns process is grateful, too.

This box was just right and half the price as well as being sturdier and possessed of a better, locking, lid and handle.  Of course it wasn’t designed for cone storage.

I can live with that.  It’s perfect!  As well as dust (and fuzz) free.

Categories: Machines, Tips, Tools Tags: