I worked for 17 years at the old Baer Fabrics in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a three-floor, warehouse-size building---heaven to anyone who loved fabric. During my time there, I learned to sell fabrics, do specialty sewing, dye bridal shoes, upholster, and practiced pattern-making. I grew to love home decor and to this day am very picky about my window treatments. I worked on the salesfloor, in the windows doing visual merchandising, in the classrooms teaching our customers, and as a manager. The classes I taught ranged from kids camps to French ribbon embroidery to umbrella making. The business was over 100 years old before it closed, and I came back to work there for fun and memories on its last day of business, where I spent most of the day crying with customers and my old co-workers. It was a great place!
I also have a degree in art with a concentration in fiber from the University of Louisville. I had an art doll business and was Kentucky Crafted certified, meaning that my work was juried (judged by a panel of artists for quality and design) and approved for the label. I sold my dolls in local galleries (including the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation Gallery) when I was in my 20s. That was so much fun!
I had all but given up on sewing until the summer of 2011, when my little daughter decided that the coolest thing ever was mom who could make doll clothes for her American Girl doll. [Insert beaming smiles and glittering pride here]. Aside from making her Christening dress and nursery decor when she was a baby and a special dress for her with matching purse here or there, I haven't done much sewing in the past 7 years! I am excited to get back to sewing, but reminded why I love papercrafting without the worries of fit, grainline, raveling, or prewashing! Still, I am excited about fabric again and hope to have more projects to share with you.
Places I like:
Art Doll Patterns
Folkwear Sewing Patterns
Free Amy Butler Patterns
Liberty Jane doll patterns
Pink Pinguin (check out the tutorials!)
Sewing Workshop Patterns, notions, etc.
Vintage Sewing Patterns
Choosing a sewing machine
I never sold machines at Baer Fabrics, a Bernina dealer. I love Berninas but never seemed to be able to afford one so I still sew on a Brother sewing machine and Baby Lock serger. I have always gotten questions about how to pick a sewing machine. This is what I reply:
- How will you use it? Even if you don't sew now, you can "look into the future" to think of the kind of sewing that you might like to try: garment sewing, home decor, machine quilting, thread painting, sewing on paper, clothing repair, heirloom sewing. For most sewing, you will need a machine that allows you to drop the feed dog, stitch straight and zigzag, easily change presser feet, easily change needles, allows stopping in the 'needle down' position. Additionally, I always suggest a machine with these speciality stitches to ensure that you have a machine that will 'grow' with you: blind hem stitch, blanket stitch, darning stitch.
- What feet are included in addition to the zigzag foot? For garment sewing you will need a zipper foot and buttonhole foot. To sew for children and for home decor sewing, you will also find it helpful to have a piping foot and ruffler. For drapery-making, you will also need a blind hem foot. For quilting, you will need a 1/4" foot, walking foot, and free-motion quilting foot. For heirloom sewing, you will need a pintuck foot and piping foot. If the feet are not included, be sure to inquire whether stitches for those tasks are built-in!
- Can you test the machine? Buying a machine from a dealer that allows you to test drive the machine can make a huge difference in finding the right machine for you. This is especially true if you already know how to sew and have expectations of your machine!
- How easy is it to adjust the tension?
- How does the thread feed? For some projects, you may want to use a large cone. Will the machine accept this or do you need an adapter?
- Does it have an overlock stitch? This is especially helpful if you do not have a serger!
- Does it have a way for you to move from flat bed to free arm? This is helpful for sewing doll clothes, baby clothes, and cuffs.
- What options does the pedal offer?
- Can you set the sewing machine to a constant speed? This is a big help when stippling.
- How deep is the arm space, or throat? If you do a lot of machine quilting, the larger this area is, the larger the quilt you can quilt.
- Do you want to applique? Look for features that include satin stitch and blanket stitch. Test the satin stitch if you are able!
- Do you want to sew garments and/or home decor? If so, you will need to be sure there is at least one built-in buttonhole.
- When choosing a dealer, check to see if the dealer offers classes to learn how to use your machine and if they offer repair in-house!
- For first-time or starter machines, avoid machines under $200. You get what you pay for when it comes to sewing machines. I always suggest budgeting around $300. Machines go up in price to the thousands of dollars, but you can find a reliable machine to fit your budget!
Sewing Kit Must Haves
The second most-asked sewing question I get is about notions needed. Aside from the ones below, you will need to purchase as needed to complete your project.
- Good shears for fabric only! My mom used to hide hers. I find that if I just put paper scissors conveniently in all the places my family might need them, they stay away from my fabric scissors!
- Glass head pins -- you can iron over these-- not so with plastic heads!
- Seam ripper
- Magnetic pin holder
- Pinking shears -- sometimes I am a bit old-fashioned
- Good quality sewing threads
- Thread snips or embroidery scissors
- Sewing gauge
- Good steam iron, ironing board, and press cloth (iron cleaner will come in handy when you use interfacings)
- Machine needles
- Hand sewing needles
- Chalk or pencil for marking (I use thread tacks for most markings)
- Machine oil unless your machine is self-oiling
- Cutting board or table
- For garment sewing, you will need a sleeve board and roll for pressing and a cloth tape measure
- For home decor decor sewing, you will need a metal tape measure
- For sewing for young children, you will need a snap setter
- Additional feet (if not sold with your machine, you can purchase them separately): edger foot, ruffler, walking foot, piping foot, roller foot
- Serger -- this is not required to sew, but for garment sewing you will never believe the difference in the look of the inside of your projects. It is an expensive investment. Be sure to choose one that can do a rolled hem as well as 3- and 4-thread serging. With your serger, you will need hemastats for inserting needles, long tweezers for threading the loops and needles, and canned air to blow out the machine. (Note: I sewed for over a decade before I got my serger and I had perfected french seams and flat-feld seams. You will want to learn about those techniques for garment sewing if you don't have a serger).
Learning to Sew
Yes, this is the next most-asked question: How do I learn?
I learned to sew from my aunt the summer before I started the 6th grade. I wanted to be a fashion designer- if you saw how boring I dress, you would laugh at that bit of news! Although my mom was a very gifted seamstress (the QUEEN of bound buttonholes so I hear), she was not a teacher... and you have probably heard that sewing skips a generation! Aside from a kind-hearted, patient aunt, nothing beats a class! I taught summer sewing camps to pre-teens a couple of years when I was still in my teens and I can assure you that you can learn! If there are no classes in your area, there are lots of great 'learn-to-sew' patterns for tops, skirts, and aprons. Sewing teaches how to follow directions completely! It is a skill that most people don't have as home ec has been dropped from school curriculums. Once you learn, I can attest that your daughter will be impressed with you, especially if none of the other moms can sew. I will also tell you that you need to keep your sewing skills a complete secret if your daughter takes ballet-- this is your only warning!
|These are Liberty Jane American Doll shorts that I sewed from their patterns. For my tutorial on how to distress doll jeans, go to http://perfectlypiper.com/2012/02/27/how-to-chemically-distress-denim-tutorial/|
|Skinny jeans for dolls are easy to sew with Liberty Jane patterns! I customized these with my own sueded label.|