If you’ve been sewing awhile (and most readers of The Cutting Table probably have), then it’s hard to remember the days when threading your machine or understanding the term “seam allowance” didn’t come naturally. But truth be told, even the most skilled amongst us was once a newbie stitcher, eager to learn the right way to wield a seam ripper or create a tidy double-fold hem.
Jill Abeloe Mead
Here to provide guidance for those basic tasks and much more is the web site HowToSew.com, produced by the talented folks who bring you American Patchwork and Quilting, Quilt Sampler, and Quilts and More. “We’re reaching out to beginning sewers and our mission is to help them learn to sew and to have a fun, successful experience,” says Jill Abeloe Mead, the site’s editor.
The learning, and the fun, is enhanced by patterns and tutorials for sewing projects for gifts, accessories, and home décor items. In the process of creating pillows, potholders, and pouches, newbies learn skills that will last a lifetime. “Sewing isn’t in many school curriculums anymore and we see lots of people teaching themselves,” says Jill. “When they get into a jam, they go to the Internet, and we want to be their go-to source for both learning basic skills and improving upon them.”
Focus groups held around the country helped Jill determine the site’s content. She learned, for example, that phrase “the right side of the fabric” wasn’t clear to beginners. “We saw they were looking at the right-hand edge of the cloth,” says Jill, so she created an illustrated post that clears up the confusion. Other posts offer tips for cutting, pressing, and sewing straight, and explain how to use templates. “We also learned that people are interested in mending things—how to fix a snag in a sweater, for example—so we’ll continue to include that kind of information,” she says.
In addition to the on-site content, a link leads to a series of Youtube videos with editor Lindsay Fullington, who demonstrates how to thread a sewing machine, how to replace a sewing machine needle, and even how to sew on a button. “Lindsay’s already developed a number of faithful followers and we’re getting email from fans,” says Jill.
New content is being added to the site regularly. On tap for this summer are a series of tee-shirt projects, including ways to personalize and modify them. Along the way site visitors will learn about fusibles, how to cut a tee-shirt for re-fashioning, and what kinds of needles to use when stitching knits. Another series of projects will focus on baby accessories: a simple coverlet, blocks, and an embellished onesie. “People like to make things to give and we plan to have lots of gift ideas in the months leading up to the holidays,” says Jill.
While HowToSew.com is aimed at beginners, there’s no doubt that some of us who have been sewing awhile will enjoy it, too. I plan to whip up some Fabric Corner Bookmarks to tuck into the holiday cards I give to my book group buddies. And the Fabric and Color section demonstrates how to use photos of everyday objects—flowers, gourds, even cookies—as inspiration for pulling together a variety of textures and hues when choosing fabrics. It’s a reminder that one of the great things about sewing is that no matter how long you’ve been stitching, there’s always something new to try.
With Valentine’s day around the corner I decided to make a cute little set of coasters to brighten up my coffee table! After I made my first set and posted a photo on Facebook… little did I know that all of my friends would want a set as well! Since they turned out as darling as they did, I thought you may enjoy having a little tutorial so you can make them for your friends (and yourself!) as well.
They really do make a sweet Valentine’s gift!
I decided to make mine double sided and here is how they turned out…
These guys are super easy to make, thanks to CRAF-TEX Precut Coasters. CRAFT-TEX is a heavyweight double-sided fusible stabilizer. What does that mean, you may be asking? It means that you can take the precut coaster and simply iron fabric on to both sides and you have yourself a coaster! But I decided to spice mine up a bit more than that. 🙂
Below you will find my supply list and step-by-step instructions. You can find the supplies for this project at your local quilt shop.
Fabric…Moda Charm Packs– Charm Packs are ideal for this because they are the perfect size! 5″x5″
Fusible – I prefer Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 but any fusible will work. I used the Lite Steam-a-Seam2 sheets. (they are packed with 5 sheets)
Fabric Scissors– My preferred scissors still remain the Elan scissors. You will want a large pair to cut out the large shapes and a small pair to cut the tiny pieces- like inside the letters and intricate shapes. It is so important to use fabric scissors or your fabric will fray on the edges leaving it looking frazzled.
Ironing Board. I really enjoy my Steady Betty pressing mat because it is so small and I can sit it right by my sewing machine and move it anywhere I need… and it is also great for taking to classes.
Applique Pressing Sheet– My pressing sheet is from Fons & Porter (The pressing sheet is a heat resistant sheet that will protect your fabric, iron and ironing board from the fusible and distributes heat better than putting your iron directly on the fabric.)
Ball Point Pens– to draw/trace designs onto Steam-a-Seam.
Design/Templates– Choose a word or design you would like to use on your coasters. I am including a Free PDF of the alphabet I usedhere. Otherwise you can just type out your letters in a Word Document and print them off.
Choose your background fabrics as well as the fabric for your letters or designs.
Also- Decide if you want your coasters to be double sided and if so,
chose the fabric for the back side as well.
•TRACE or DRAW your letters or design on the STICKY side of the SteamASeam. (peal back corner to see which side is sticky)
NOTE: Yourdesign must be traced or drawn backwards (mirror image) onto the SteamASeam so when you transfer to the WRONG side of the fabric and eventually cut it out it will come out the correct direction. To achieve this you can draw it with a sharpie on a separate paper and then flip that paper over and lay under the SteamASeam to trace backwards.
•CUT design out of STEAM-A-SEAM leaving about 1/4″ – 1/2″ around the design.
•PEAL the smooth side of the SteamASeam away and then lay your Applique Pressing Sheet over the fabric and letter and then press the Sticky Side of the design onto the WRONG side of your fabric and press for ~10 seconds to get the stickum to adhere to the fabric.
•TEST by using your finger nail to pull back a corner of the SteamASeam to see if the stickum has transfered from the Paper to the Fabric. If not, press a bit more but not too long.
•CUT the DESIGN out exactly on the line you drew.
•PEAL back the SteamASeam paper from the fabric leaving the stickum on the WRONG side of your fabric.
•POSITION your letter/design where you like on your fabric.
•PRESS- Once you have it exactly where you like, press that baby down!
•Stitch around your design. I used the zig zag stitch. A blanket stitch would look cute as well. 🙂
I decided to make my coasters double sided.
The top side to say “Stitch” and the bottom side to say “LOVE” with two hearts on either side.
So I stitched the letter on the top piece of fabric, then stitch the letter on the bottom piece
and then I was ready to make my coaster!
•Grab 1 of your CRAF-TEX Coaster Stabilizers and your top and bottom fabrics.
Then sandwich your fabrics around your CRAF-TEX Coaster. Since your charm squares are 5″x5″ and your coaster is 4″x 4″, you will have some fabric around the edges of the coaster. I just centered my coaster in the middle of the fabrics so the letters would be centered on the coaster once trimmed.
Your letters/designs should show on the outside and you will no longer see the CRAF-TEX.
•Cover your fabric sandwich with the Applique Pressing Sheet and press down the top fabric for about 30 seconds.
Then flip your fabric sandwich over and press the opposite side for 30 seconds as well.
•Using your ruler & rotary cutter, trim the excess 1/2″ off of each side. (you can just use scissors if you don’t have a rotary cutter/mat)
•ALMOST DONE!!! Your final step is to stitch around the edges of the coaster to finish it. Again I used the zig zag stitch. A satin stitch or button hold stitch would also look great.