A See How We Sew Tradition: Our Top 10 Posts for 2014

Inspiration-J:  Xmas Tree

Hello dear readers! Hope the holiday season is  treating you well. We’re enjoying the closing days of 2014, and looking forward to all sorts of crafting and sewing adventures in 2015. You’ll remember that last year we shared our Top 10 Posts for 2013 and we’re establishing a New Year’s tradition by looking at our results for 2014 and sharing them with you.

Like last year, you favor learning about techniques, notable textile artists, and products:

  1. Patterns
  2. Walk Your Stitches Out of the Ditch
  3. 10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out with Candace Kling
  4. Drafting Part 2:  Making an 8-Pointed or Lemoyne Star
  5. Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon
  6. Prewash or Not? Quilting’s Perennial Question
  7. Feeling Frantic?  Check Out These Last-Minute Goodies
  8. Gallery
  9. Soft & Stable:  An Alternative to Batting
  10. Creating Curved Pieced Blocks and Landscapes with Sue Rasmussen

Enjoy the waning days of our Winter holidays and do check back to see what we have in store for 2015!

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Simple Wedge Tree Skirt

Friday already? Yikes! I’m still curious about where November went. I’m guessing like many of you, this is a busy time of the year. Thanksgiving always seems to sneak up on me and then I start rushing in preparation for Christmas. I’m not one to purchase gifts throughout the year, but instead I wait until I’m inspired. I guess that’s why they call me “Last-Minute Laura.” Oh well, it works for me.

I’m still organizing my sewing/quilting room and promise to share photos as soon as it is ready for viewing. It amazes me how much stuff one person can collect over a 30-year period. I am happy to report that I HAVE donated lots of it, but there is still so much left to organize . . . one box at a time.

I needed to take a break from all the boring work and decided to do something simple and creative. I may be one of the last sewers/quilters who wraps the base of the family tree with a piece of holiday-printed fabric. Not this year, I decided it was time to actually make a proper skirt for our tree.

Our tree isn't up yet so I must use a cabinet for display.
Our tree isn’t up yet so I must use a cabinet for display.

I was recently given a 9-degree wedge ruler and thought it might be fun to cut and sew pieces together to form the needed circle. It’s pretty simple, and just 5 fat quarters are needed to make this skirt.



After sewing the 40 wedges together, I felt it needed some decorative trim around the edge. Prairie points! After sewing them on I preferred the look of them folded inward and so I decided to secure them through the layers with red beads. I think it makes for a nice finishing touch.

Buttons, beads or even bells could be used to secure the points.
Buttons, beads or even bells could be used to secure the points.

OK, skirt done. Now I just need to get the tree up so I can enjoy the new look, at least until the presents make their appearance. Speaking of presents, here’s a fun website I stumbled across today. If you enjoy unique gift wrappings you will enjoying watching the many tutorials. I am anxious to try the pleated one, it’s adorable. Click here to watch the beautiful Japanese gift wrapping by SHIHO Style and Design.


Laura Signature

Hari-Kuyo – The Ceremony of Broken Needles

In Japan, the Hari-Kuyo ceremony is held throughout Japan annually on the 8th of February. This 400-year-old tradition is held at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples as a celebration of the small tools used by seamstresses, embroiderers, and housewives over the previous year.

It is believed that these inanimate objects have souls and by using them, some of their pain is released. Broken or worn needles, pins, and some small scissors are brought to the ceremony and thanked for their good service in creating sashiko, kimonos, or even for daily mending. Then they are gently laid to rest in a soft tofu cake.


Tofu is symbolic in this instance for rest and tenderness; a peaceful place for the tools retirement. In observance of the ceremony, no sewing is to take place on this day, as this gives time for  reflection and time to pray that sewing skills improve the following year. Audrey Yang tells of the ceremony in a beautiful online booklet- Hari-Kuyo: Festival of the Broken Needle.

Stitch Modern Ceremony

East Bay Modern Quilt Guild held a version of this meaningful ceremony last Saturday, February 8th, as part of a series of events connected with Stitch Modern 2014, their annual show.

Photo by Pati Fried

I found paying my respects and praying to console my broken needles a wonderful opportunity to share in a time honored tradition . I spend so much of my day with needle and scissors in hand. It was a moment to reflect on my year as a quilter and to be thankful of the accomplishments made with these tiny tools. I have always tossed them away without regard to their importance to my craft. This was an opportunity to change my thinking.

Photo by Pati Fried

The ceremony was thoughtful and welcoming. Birgit Hottenrott, the driving force to celebrate Hari-Kuyo at Stitch Modern, shared the history and lore that has evolved with this special day. While she spoke, many brought their broken needles to rest in the peaceful bed of tofu. Birgit ended the ceremony with the lovely poem by Emily Dickinson, Don’t put up my Thread and Needle.

Photo by Pati Fried

Thank you Birgit, for bringing this lovely tradition to our attention. As this year proceeds, I fully intend to keep a special place for retiring my used needles until February 8, 2015, when I will again, pay them the respect they deserve and celebrate Hari-Kuyo.

Photo by Pati Fried

ではまた。Dewa mata, (See you later).

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Featherweight Fan Club – Part 2

Pati's machine
My New Friend

I promised to share a few stories with you about Featherweights. Here is mine:

I wanted to buy a featherweight for all the right reasons – I wanted something that I could leave packed up and ready to wheel off to wherever my quilting escapades took me. I hated unplugging and packing up Bernie the Bernina every time I went to a class or drop-in. I started doing some research and then mentioned to some friends that I was going to buy one. Nancy, the most prolific quilter I know, announced that I should buy hers. “Why don’t you want it?” I asked, wondering if there was something wrong with the machine. “Because I have two of them!” she said. Well, of course she did! And so I became the owner of a beautiful, 1950’s Singer Featherweight. But the story doesn’t end there – I met up with Ann, another quilty friend, to attend a local quilt show. She had shown me her sweet little featherweight and we were chatting about them as we walked into the show. The first thing we see is a Featherweight vendor display with the most beautiful cherry red Featherweight calling our names. It was one of those angel-singing-moments for both of us. My heart skipped a beat, and I am sure Ann’s did too. “But I just bought one!” I exclaimed. “That’s okay,” said the vendor, “we can paint it for you – any color you like!”

My (future) red machine

And so, Ann and I have made a pact that there will be two freshly painted, cherry red Featherweights in our very near future.

Marge Wasserman
Rescued from an Old Farmhouse in New York

Everyone seems to have a story about finding or “acquiring” a Featherweight. Old barns, Grandma’s attic or at a garage sale. Marge Wasserman shared her story with me this week:

“In 1997, I took a trip to New York, and visited a friend near Lake Keuka, in the gorgeous leaf-changing autumn weather.  He lived in a ramshackle old farm house and grew wine grapes on his property.  As is common with old farmhouses, this one had an outdoor kitchen, which was covered but open to the air on the side.  A lot of junk was stored there, and one day I noticed a familiar “Little Black Box” amongst the clutter.  I asked him what that was (knowing full well, as I had one at home already) and he said it was his mother’s Singer Featherweight his dad had given her for a wedding present in 1937.  He had also used it for years himself.  I asked what he was going to do with it, and he said he figured he’d give it to some local Mennonite quilters.  Very much not in character for me, I said, well, if you are going to give it away, could I have it?  He said sure!  The machine’s serial number gives it a 1938 date. The machine is in very good shape.  It has always run beautifully and I keep it in my car to take to classes, workshops, etc.  One other special note, inside the machine box was a beautiful sterling silver thimble which had belonged to his mother, and which he also let me have, and it is the only one I use.”

Our own Laura Nownes also shared a fun story. “A few years ago I was standing in the checkout line at a local fabric store. A young woman in front of me was sharing her story of a recent garage sale she went to. There just happened to be a “small, cute black Singer sewing machine for $25″ she said. She only had a $20 bill on her so made the offer and went home with the machine. She had no idea of the little treasure she had just purchased. The lady behind me and I just rolled our envious eyes. Oh my, some people have all the luck. Obviously they are still out there if you are lucky enough to stumble upon one.”

Remember Carolyn’s beautiful machines featured in part 1 of Featherweight Fan Club? Here is Carolyn’s story:  “These two featherweights were bought from Twice as Nice Shoppe in Fremont CA.  Tom Trebotich paints the machines and another person does the flowers.  He brings them to quilt shows to sell as well as selling them out of his home by appointment.  The purple machine was my first featherweight!”

A lot of our readers also wrote comments on Tuesday’s post to share their Featherweight love story. Brita from Scrapsofhappiness.blogspot.com wrote to me after Tuesday’s post, “It was a sign. It was meant to be, I’m sure. I’ve been drooling over a Featherweight I found online, and I debated, debated, and debated whether I should buy it. After reading your blog today, I knew I simply had to get it and I did! Thanks for the noodge. Now, excuse me while I go wandering around the Internet to all the sites you listed!”

Take a moment and read more of the wonderful comments shared here.


To end this Singer Featherweight Fest, I will share a few  wonderful creations inspired by these lovable machines.

Christine Thresh's Featherweight Wallhanging
Love this quilt by Christine Thresh
Adorable Valentine by Cotton Pickin’ Fun!
Rubber Stamp
Rubber Stamp by NoraJane on Etsy
Loralie Fabric
Loralie Fabric at She Sells Fabric on Etsy
Tibetan Silver Earrings by The Bluest Sky on Etsy
Lucyslocket on Etsy
Felted Wool Pincushion by Lucys Locket on Etsy

Take a moment to like us on Facebook and share photos of your Featherweight or Featherweight memorabilia. I would love to see it! See How We Sew Facebook Page

Thanks for taking this little journey with me. It was so much fun!

Love, Pati

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Sprucing Up Your Sewing Space: A Design Wall Dream Come True!

Something wonderful happened last weekend in my sewing room, and I’m so excited, I just had to share. I now have a real-live, large, and permanent design wall!

My new design wall--inspired by Jennifer's drive to finish her UFOs, I've pulled a few off the shelf myself!
My new design wall–inspired by Jennifer’s drive to finish her UFOs, I’ve pulled a few off the shelf myself!

For years, given the space constraints of my combined sewing room/office (and occasional guest room), my design wall consisted of a piece of “tired” white batting attached to the wall with push pins. Yes, it worked, but I dreamed of something more substantial. When Brooks and I became empty nesters earlier this year, the opportunity to expand my workspace became a real possibility, and I was all over it.

First stop: the local home-improvement store, where I purchased four 1″-thick, 2′ x 4′ sheets of insulation board. Back home, I taped the boards together in pairs on the long edges using clear packing tape. Then, with the help of my hubby (and a level), I affixed the two newly joined boards flush to each other on the wall with Velcro (!), which I placed in 4″ strips on the corners and in the center of each two-board panel and in corresponding, pre-measured places on the wall. I covered the whole thing with a large piece of white cotton batting, which I secured to the outside edges with T-pins. Voila! The finished board measures 8′ across by 4′ long . . . and I love it!

Velcro, T-pins, and cotton batting
Velcro, T-pins, and cotton batting

I got the idea for the Velcro–which I also found at the home-improvement store–from my friend, Chris Porter. It was so much easier than using slats, nails, hooks, screws, or any other hardware-y things. I suspect the wall may need a little touch up when I remove the boards to move someday, but the areas affected by the Velcro are small . . . and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

A few tips: If possible, purchase insulation board with no writing on the front. It wasn’t until I had the boards up and covered that I discovered their bold, blue writing showed through the batting. A coat of white primer fixed that, but you can avoid the extra step if you start with a clean slate. Also, be sure the batting is cotton; fabric pieces have a tendency to slip off poly or poly-blend surfaces. You can substitute white cotton flannel or felt if you prefer, but I found a queen-sized batting did the trick–with leftovers for other small projects. Finally, do try the T-pins. In my experience, staples just didn’t work.

That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014_2Before signing off, I’m happy to announce that Cathy Gunstone is the winner of  the That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014 from my last Friday’s post. Her favorite month is August “because the weather is usually at its Puget Sound best and the mountains and wildflowers are glorious.”

It was so much fun to read the comments! Every single month was noted, with October garnering the most votes by far. Seems we love those autumn days! July came in second, barely nudging out May and September.

Just for fun, I asked my blogging sisters their favorites. Laura picked June because it’s her “birthday month, and also because school is out, it marks the beginning of summer, and vacation trips begin.” Jennifer chose “March, because it’s the month of seasonal change. Nature starts emerging from Winter with buds and blossoms. It’s a time of renewal for me.” As for me, I’m with those October folks. I grew up on the East Coast, and autumn has always been my favorite season.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Attention Quilters: Winner Takes All in BIG Mid-Year Giveaway!

Since we launched See How We Sew back in the spring of 2011, many quilt- and sewing-related companies and individuals have been extremely generous in donating fabulous books, fabrics, patterns, and notions to be used as giveaways in our various posts. In fact, they’ve been more than generous, and–over time–we’ve accumulated a bit of a surplus.

So . . . we’ve decided to raid our goodie box to assemble a super, Christmas-in-(almost)-July, winner-takes-all giveaway!

One lucky reader will receive all of the items in this super giveaway!
One lucky reader will receive all of the items in this super giveaway!

Included in this mega giveaway:

Since this is such a special giveaway, we’re asking for a slightly different type of comment to get your name in the hat. To be eligible, give us your best, most creative attempt at a four-line “poem” telling us why you deserve to win. (One entry per person, please.) The deadline for entries is noon (PDT), Thursday, July 11. Jennifer will announce the winner in her Friday, July 12 post.

You don’t need to be a SHWS subscriber to enter, but we hope that–if you haven’t already–you’ll join us via the “Sign me up!” button in the right-hand column of this post. That way, you’ll receive a reminder each Tuesday and Friday to visit us for our latest posting–and you won’t miss a single tutorial, tip, virtual quilt show, free pattern (or recipe), quilt-shop visit, book or product review, exhibit announcement, source of inspiration, or giveaway here at See How We Sew. Please tell your friends about us, too.

Speaking of giveaways: the winner of Edyta Sitar’s Little Baskets pattern from Darra’s June 25 post is Susan Paxton. Congratulations, Susan!

‘Til next time, happy stitching.


Introducing Reverse-a-Rulers™, Grrrip-It® and a Giveaway

For the past 2 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Richard Quint of Quint Measuring Systems to develop a new line of rulers for the quilting and sewing industry. Richard’s company has been a leading manufacturer of precision measuring tools since 1995. Since I have always been a stickler for accuracy, this collaboration was a good match for me. When Richard approached me to help with this project, I immediately said that I had pretty high standards and specific requirements for a tool that I would be willing to promote.


I am pleased to say that Richard has provided everything I asked for in this new line of Reverse-a-Rule™ rulers.

1.     Accurate markings with thin and consistent line widths, and clear spaces between the lines for easy placement of the edges of cut strips and shapes assist with accurate cutting.

right cutting

left cutting

2.     All rulers are designed and marked for both right-handed and left-handed cutters.


3.     All rulers are marked with black lines on one side for use with light-colored fabrics, and yellow lines on the opposite side for use with dark-colored fabrics.

2 Black & Yellow together

4.     All corners have a slight curve to prevent nicking rotary-cutting blades while cutting.

5.     Rulers are made from polycarbonate rather than acrylic so they will not break, chip, or crack.

6.     All markings are hot stamped rather than applied with the normal screen-printing process so that markings will not rub or wear off over time.

7. Rulers are made in a variety of useful sizes for both cutting and squaring up finished units and blocks. Squaring rulers include 45-degree-angle markings, and all cutting rulers are marked with both 45- and 60-degree-angle lines.

8. New GRRIP-IT® adhesive attaches to any rulers to prevent slipping. Grrrip-It

I am excited that several of the major distributors have picked up on these rulers, so hopefully you will be able to find them in your local shops very soon. I always encourage you to support your locals first, but if you are not able to find them, I have some available on my website and will be happy to help you.

1-Giveaway IconMy two favorite sizes so far are the 6″ x 14″ cutting ruler and the 6-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ squaring ruler. I would love to offer both of these to one of our readers, along with a package of Grrrip-It®. If you are interested in putting your name in the hat, simply leave a comment by end of day May 15th telling me why you would like these new products, and I will announce the winner in my next post on May 21st.

Happy creating everyone!


Clip, Snip, Slice–Seam Rippers in the Spotlight

Tool-J:  Seam Ripper from WikiCommons
An exemplar seam ripper–it bears an uncanny resemblance to my mother’s snapped-off, 1970s-era model because hers is exactly that short. I would’ve bought a new one, but she seems to like hers stubby. Oh well.

Today the subject is Seam Rippers—in my head I hear Shirley Bassey singing seeeeam rippah ala the Goldfinger soundtrack as I type this post . . . perhaps I spent too much time at work today database mining?

After a none-too-rigorous Google research effort, I’ve discovered very little about the roots of our errant-stitch eradicators, and much more on their many weird manifestations. Origins? They’ve been around forever. As long as we’ve used sharp, pointy tools and stringy stuff, we’ve needed to snip stitched mistakes.

Artsy view of my favorite seam ripper--a slim, sharp blade and a comfortable handle.
Artsy view of my favorite seam ripper–a slim, sharp blade and a comfortable handle.

Do you know you can find seam rippers with attached LED lighting or magnifying glasses to mitigate declining vision? Seems like a good idea, but the word on the street is that the disability needs to outweigh the inconvenience of awkward or bulky attachments. Other models promise stitch-snipping ease with medical-grade blades. While I see the potential for spilt blood from my use, the more dexterous swear by the efficacy of these epic cutters.

My absolute fave for a giggle is a battery-operated, seam-ripping clipper. Hey, I think it’s a fabulous idea, and boy does it mow down the stitches in a YouTube video. I just can’t help remembering how my husband used dog clippers to give our eldest child a buzz cut when he was eleven. Not one of my honey’s better cost-saving schemes because we had to dash to the barbershop afterward. (Where did he put those dog clippers? I’m sure I can repurpose them for quilting.)

As for online seam-ripper lore, did you know that many sewers weren’t allowed to use seam rippers in Home Economics classes back in the day? I don’t remember that prohibition, but I think my Baby Boomer cohort had more forgiving teachers. I also came across a blogger with a whimsical take on seam rippers who let her tools author a very funny and insightful post.

My trio of seam rippers--only one has a top . . . where do the lids disappear?
My trio of seam rippers–only one has a top . . . where do the lids disappear?

If you’re looking for your best seam-ripping option, look no further than Amazon.com to see the best-selling models. (I own 2 of the top 3–wow!) Now, if your prefer the latest variation on a seam-ripper theme, take in Seam-Fix™, which promises to erase stubborn thread detritus after you clip your stitches. Marby Bennett at Wooden Gate Quilts in Danville, CA says the Seam-Fix™ models are running out of her store as fast as she stocks them. Lucky for our SHWS readers, she’s given us one to add to those Ginghers for our anniversary giveaway. What a nice way to sweeten the pot!

Darra, Laura, and I want you to know how much we enjoyed reading all the comments for the Ginghers/Seam-Fix™ giveaway. We laughed, we cried, and we are so very blessed with your continued interest and support of See How We Sew.  Thank you! And the winner is Rosemary!


From the Three of Us: Running with Scissors (+ a Special Anniversary Giveaway)

Giveaway-GoldTechnology has changed our lives in many places,  the sewing room among them. We 21st-century stitchers are beneficiaries of so many advances: computerized sewing machines; accurate and sturdy rulers for every conceivable use;  instruction available 24/7 via the ‘net. In the cutting department, we have rotary cutters in all sizes, perfect for cleanly cutting straight or scalloped edges, and cutting systems such as AccuQuilt, capable of quickly cutting dozens of identical shapes. Yet, despite the options, sometimes nothing will do but a good, old-fashioned pair of scissors.

Darra's 3" x 5" collage, Snip-It!, with a pair of her (well-used) favorites, a gift from friend Chris Porter
Darra’s 3″ x 5″ collage, Snip-It!, with a pair of her (well-used) favorites, a gift from friend Chris Porter

No one knows for certain exactly when scissors made the scene, or even how they got their name, but there are some pretty well-acknowledged guesses. A single-bladed, scissor-like implement was evident in Egypt, circa 1500 B.C. The cross-bladed, pivoted configuration more familiar to us today likely dates to the early-2nd-century Romans. As for the name: according to Merriam-Webster, the Middle English word cisours (or sisoures) was in use by the mid-14th century, tracing its roots to the Latin caedare (“to cut”).

In honor of this venerable and versatile tool, we thought it would be fun to share a snippet or two of our own history with scissors: memories, favorites, even a tip–you’ll find it here!

Jennifer’s Ode to Her Scissors

Even as a child, when I was a novice sewer, I realized scissors were imbued with mythic power. Those shiny, big shears were strictly off limits except for cutting fabric. Honestly, I was a little afraid of them. Not so much now. What with rotary cutters and such, we’ve got scads of choices when it comes to our cutting ways. As for scissors, I favor a sporty model that Diana McClun gave me a few years ago—it was the designated giveaway for the Empty Spools sessions at Asilomar (CA) that year. I love them because they are the racy sports car version of scissors: they are sharp, corner well, snip cleanly right up to the tip of the blade, and they are also exotically international—they are Japanese by birth.

Jennifer's go tos, artfully displayed
Jennifer’s go tos, artfully displayed

Laura Checks In

I have always enjoyed having a pair of scissors in my hands. Sometimes the cuts did not produce the outcome I had hoped for; for example, at around age 4, I clearly recall cutting the beautiful, long curls from my best friend’s new bride doll . . . sorry Patty! (Perhaps this experience softened me when, at around the same age, my younger daughter gave her best friend a haircut.)

Betsy McCall first appeared in McCall's in 1951.
Betsy McCall first appeared in McCall’s in 1951.

Soon after, I was given my own pair of safety scissors. I remember patiently awaiting the arrival of the monthly McCalls Magazine  just to be able to flip to the last page and cut out the newest version of the Betsy McCall paper doll that appeared in each issue. For me, it was always about the cutting and much less about playing with the dolls.

When I started dressmaking, a pair of beautiful Gingher shears were my new treasured tool. When I want accurate cutting for large or multiple fabric shapes, these are my scissors of choice. I have a variety of small, embroidery-type scissors and use them for all my appliqué and embroidery projects. Like Jennifer, I also was gifted with a pair of Kai scissors. They have become my new favorite pair.

Some of Laura's favorites
Some of Laura’s favorites

A Tip From Darra

Funny how our memories overlap. I have similar recollections of the forbidden fabric scissors: I learned about the distinction when I was discovered trimming my bangs with Mom’s precious Wiss dressmaking shears. I also remember waiting impatiently for her to finish with McCall’s so I could get at those paper dolls. (Heavenly were the months when the reverse page contained no stories, just ads. Instant green light!)

Like Laura and Jennifer, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of sewing scissors over the years, and I have my favorites; however, I’ve got one special pair among my “essentials”
that you might find unusual: a pair of small, sharp, curved-bladed manicuring scissors. They are perfect for cutting out small (or otherwise) curvy shapes from template material. If they’re sharp enough, you can use them for cutting out curved applique shapes from fused fabric as well. I wouldn’t be without them!

Curved manicuring scissors--perfect for cutting small curved templates and pieces, like the pockets and such in April Showers for Sunbonnet Sue by Chris Porter
Curved manicuring scissors–perfect for cutting small curved templates and pieces, like the pockets and such in April Showers for Sunbonnet Sue by Chris Porter

Leave a comment telling us about your favorite scissors by noon Thursday, April 4, and you’ll be eligible to win a pair of shiny new 8″ Gingher knife-edge dressmaking shears . . . and a secret bonus that we’ll reveal when we announce the winner in our Friday, April 5 post. It’s a special, double giveaway to mark a very special milestone: the 2nd anniversary of See How We Sew!


We hope your week includes some time for stitching.