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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Mindfulness and Masks

As the world population battles COVID-19, my moods have swung from disbelief to sadness, then anger and fear.  I suspect the mood swings are not over, but for me, staying busy keeps the anxiety at bay.  

A Facebook group called Crafters Against COVID-19 *PDX* was created March 18.  By April 1st ,  over 8000 Portland area members had delivered 5427 homemade masks to Multnomah County Health Department.  The County is distributing them to care facilities and shelters.  

Sew Many Good Patterns!

I have made 200 masks using four different patterns. All were good patterns, but not all were suitable for production-like sewing.  A few days ago, I found another pattern that I will use going forward.  It goes together very quickly.  The finished product is attractive and easy to wear.  It hugs the face around the edges, while leaving a bit of breathing room at the nose and mouth.  

The pattern was created by Liz Schaffner, owner and creative genius (I kid you not) of Moments by Liz.  She has many great patterns with innovative sewing techniques.  I learn a lot from Liz and her talented group members.  Liz shared the free pattern with the members of her private Facebook group.      

I modified the pattern to comply with the Crafters group guidelines and to make it more suitable for production-like sewing.  After a few trial runs, I was able to make a mask in about one half the time it took to make any of the other masks.  And, the mask is so much easier to wear.  

I sent Liz a photo of my finished mask and she has generously allowed me to make the modified version public.  

Download free PDF version here. 


For each pattern, you need:
  • 8" x 10" 100% cotton outer fabric
  • 8" x 10" 100% cotton lining fabric
  • two 7" pieces of elastic


Cutting and Turning

Place outer fabric and lining fabric right side together, edges aligned.  Measure and make a small mark 2” in from each corner on all sides.  Draw a diagonal line connecting the marks.  
I made a cardstock template to make this faster and more accurate. 

Don’t cut the corners yet.  This is my personal preference.  It is easier to maintain the shape as you sew the bias (diagonal) cuts of the fabric.   


Using 3/8" seam allowance, sew the lining and outer fabrics right side together leaving open about 3” to 4” on one long side for turning.  The diagonal lines are where you will cut.  Make sure you sew 3/8" inside that cut line.  When sewn, cut the corners off along the diagonal lines.

Turn right side out.  Press the mask making sure the seam allowance you left open is turned inside and pressed flat.  Roll the seams between your fingers to make sure they are fully extended and corners are sharp. I sometimes use the "non-hooked" end of a small crochet hook to gently push the corners out. Corners that are not fully extended will be troublesome when you make your folds.  

Folding the "Liz" Pleats

The pleats create the cup shape that make this mask so comfortable to wear.  This picture shows what we are trying to do.  Read on to see how to get there. 

Fold the bottom up on one side about 3/8” to 1/2” above the side corner.  

Hold the top of the fold in place and pull the lower corner to the right so the edge is parallel to the side of the mask, as pictured below.

Pin in place.

You will be sewing across the pleats top to bottom.  Pinned edges should be aligned to make a straight edge at an even distance from the side of the mask.  Try to make the two inner points meet in the center. I do not spend a lot of time trying to eliminate any gap between the points.  If there is a short gap between those points, it will not impact your finished mask.  As long as you can sew a straight line from top to bottom, it will work.  Be consistent on both sides.  

Top Stitch Finish

The top stitch will accomplish the last three steps: 
  • Sew the pleats in place
  • Secure the elastic
  • Close the opening used to turn right side out

You can do this in whatever manner you feel most comfortable.  I like to do the entire top stitch without breaking my thread. 

This picture of the inside of a finished mask may be enough to explain what I have done.  If not, you can read on for more pictures and detailed instructions.   

Starting at one corner, top stitch close to the edge across the long edge, down the side over the folds sewing the pleats in place.  When you have sewn across the first set of pleats, stop sewing with needle down and pivot.

Insert one end of a 7” piece of elastic into the pleat next to the fold and as far as it will go.  Top stitch to the side of the mask on top of the pleat catching the elastic inside.  Pivot.  

Sew up the side of the mask to about an inch from the second pleat.  Stop and insert the second side of that 7” piece of elastic.  Continue sewing to the fold.  Pivot and sew along the fold, catching the elastic as you sew.  

Stitch back and forth from top to bottom a few times catching the elastic at each end.  Continue sewing the remaining long edge to the other side.  Sew over the second set of pleats, stop and pivot.  Insert one end of the second piece of elastic and complete the top stitching as you did on the first side.  Continue sewing until you meet the top stitching where you started.

You are done!  So easy!  

Thank you Liz Schaffner, Moments by Liz, for the great pattern and for allowing me to share.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Paper and thread botanical greeting cards

The holidays are over and I am settling back into routine.  A new blog post is overdue so thought I would do a quick tutorial on how I made the botanical greeting cards recently posted in my Urban Stitcher® Etsy shop.  They are fun to make with endless possibilities.  I will mention the supplies I used, but honestly, there are no rules.  You probably already have everything you need to get started.  

I wanted a simple design to accommodate a variety of media, including free-motion sewing machine stitches.  

As with most all my projects, I started with a sketch pad.  

Now, switching to my 9"x12" watercolor pad, I cut one sheet in four 4-1/2" x 6" pieces.  My blank card stock is 4-5/8 x 6-1/4, so no waste!  I prepared the watercolor paper with a simple wash.  I will not dwell on how to do this.  I am not accomplished with watercolor, but there are great tutorials on YouTube that have helped me learn the little I know.  

I traced the outside line of the picture to a paper-backed adhesive.  I use Pellon's Wonder Under.  The paper will be peeled away, so pencil is fine to do the tracing.

After tracing, I loosely cut around the image.  More care will be taken in cutting out the image after adhering it to the decorative paper. 

After the basic shape was cut out, I used my steam iron on low heat/no steam to press the Wonder Under image to the back of decorative paper.  Any kind of paper or fabric can be used.  I used Thai Mulberry paper in several colors. 

Now it is time to carefully cut around the image. When the image is cut out, peel the Wonder Under paper backing away from the decorative paper, flip it over and use the iron again to press it to the prepared watercolor paper.  

I used a Frixion Clicker Erasable pen to draw the detail I want to stitch.  This is my favorite pen anytime I need to make a temporary mark on fabric or paper.  It disappears with a light press with an iron.   

I used a very dark green Sulky 40 wt rayon embroidery thread to stitch the detail in free-motion.  It is good to plan how you will stitch the lines.  The needle makes holes in the paper.  It's part of the charm unless you go over the same area too many times.    

Sometimes it is necessary to stop stitching in one area and move to another area.  In that case, I leave a long tail on my threads so I can come back later, pull them to the back side, and knot them on back.

In this picture, the flower is completed.  The watercolor paper has been trimmed to a size that will allow me to use a "mat" and still fit on the blank card stock.  I will use a needle to pull these threads to the back side and knot them.   

I use double backed tape to adhere the watercolor paper/mat onto the blank card stock.  I like the layered look, so my picture was trimmed to allow a bit of mat and the blank card to show below.  Again, just personal preference.

I used very little stitching on this card because the embedded mulberry leaves add so much character.

Some of these leaves were too small to detail with decorative paper, so I used a little watercolor to give them color.   

That's it!  Simple greeting cards made with love.  I hope you are inspired to try making some of your own!    

Thank you for visiting.  Between blog posts, please visit Urban Stitcher on Facebook and Etsy.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Sling Bag Pattern Creation

After making four sling bags using the Park Sling Backpack by Sew Sweetness, I was ready for a different bag.  I had size, shape and features in mind, but could not find a suitable pattern.  I have made many bags without a pattern using simple construction designs and techniques, but never feature-intensive bags, like backpacks.  Watching a couple of YouTube video tutorials gave me the confidence to try making a pattern I could use, and perhaps, re-use.    

Here is what I had in mind:
  • 8 inches wide by 12 inches tall, 3-inch gusset with a long zipper across the top for easy access to the inside
  • Sling bag style with a single strap extending from the top of the bag
  • D-rings on both lower corners so the strap could be used over either arm
  • Lining that fits snugly inside without drooping  
Most of these requirements are pretty straight forward.  Saggy lining is a sticking point for me, however.  I hate rummaging around in a bag that is full of lining.  I know there are many tips and tricks for managing lining.  I decided to try something a little different.... french seams.  

If you are interested in how I created a sling bag with french seams, read on.  If not, take a peek at the pictures and if you like the bag you see, visit my Urban Stitcher® Etsy shop to see the Cork Leaves Sling Bag.  It was made using the pattern created here.    

Let's Get Started!

Recognizing that the trial bag would most likely be unusable, I selected fabric odds and ends from my stash.  The hardware could be recovered.  The only real loss would be zipper yardage.  As expected, trial and error revealed several flaws in my logic.  In each case, I corrected my pattern instructions and forged ahead with the prototype. All the warts are visible in these pictures!

My notes and diagrams started on a piece of freezer paper.  After many corrections and updates, the notes were transferred to a notebook.

Paper bag recycled into pattern pieces.  
Note:  I used foam stabilizer for the front, back and side panels.  To eliminate bulk, I cut the stabilizer about 5/8" from all edges.

 To create the french seams, I first sewed the lining pieces to the main fabric pieces, right sides together, leaving a small opening to turn right side out. I used a 1/4" seam allowance.  
For the prototype, I cut the side panel section as one piece using the main fabric.  I sewed it into a tube and turned right side out.  I pressed the seam down the middle of the tube to eliminate bulk at the edges where the side panel would be sewn to the front and back pieces.  
I used the same method to create the zipper unit.  The zipper panels were stitched directly on top of the zipper tape.  It was very easy.  Note the second line of top stitching on each side of the zipper.  The reason will be shown later. 

Front, back and gusset ready for assembly.  Because there are no raw edge, unfinished strap ends and pocket edges cannot be buried.  The strap tabs were sewn to the outside far enough from the edge that they would not interfere with the french seam.  

Front panel clipped to back panel and ready for stitching.  Careful measuring and planning is necessary.  No snipping corners to ease the gusset!  

From the lining side you can see where I stitched the strap tabs in place.  This is an oops that had to be noted for future bags.  The straps need to be stitched to the exterior fabric before sewing it to the lining.  Seems obvious, right?

Tight and tidy lining with french seams!  No raw edges!  No bias binding!  The french seam is about 1/4".  It is not as wide as if I had encased the raw edges with bias binding.  I think it was easier than applying bias binding, and the seams may be sturdier.   

This closeup shows the back side of the zipper.  The extra line of stitches on the zipper secures the edge of the zipper to the panel giving it a finished look.  Easier than hand finishing the lining around the zipper and there is absolutely no baggy lining around the zipper!

 I used bias binding for the strap and strap pocket.  Because of the zipper, I think it lays flatter than sewing right sides together and turning.  Looking closely you can see another oops.....the grommet for earbud cable is installed backwards.  Oh well.  

Here is a picture of the Cork Leaves Sling Bag currently available in my Etsy shop.  It was helpful working through the first bag and having the pattern pieces.  I have to admit, however, that I made several other changes that necessitated a lot of fitting and basting.  I may make a couple more and hopefully have a solid pattern to show for it... just in time to be tired of this bag and ready to move on!  

Thank you for visiting!  I hope you will watch for my next post.  In the meantime, follow Urban Stitcher® on Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, and Twitter!  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Columbia Gorge Hotel

During our last visit to Columbia Gorge Hotel, I took snapshots that I thought would be fun to thread sketch.  I can't believe that was four years ago and I am just now returning to those photos.  This is the first of two or three of the pictures I plan to use for  8" x 10" thread sketches.

I am still playing with watercolors, so I made my initial sketch on watercolor paper and finished it by experimenting with a watercolor splatter technique.  It was an extra step, unnecessary to complete the thread sketch, but provided a lot of entertainment! 

After taking the watercolor as far as I wanted, I followed my normal process tracing the basic lines onto clear water soluble stabilizer.  The clear stabilizer with the drawing was taped to white canvas that had been prepared with an adhesive stabilizer and a tear-away stabilizer. 

Once all the lines were stitched with black embroidery thread, I removed the water soluble stabilizer by cutting away the larger pieces and rinsing in warm water to remove the smaller bits.  I dried it flat and pressed it preserving the tear-away stabilizer on the back.  Additional stabilizer can always be added if it is damaged or too wrinkled. 

I used acrylic paint thinned with a bit of water to color some of the areas. 

The rooftops and shaded areas have more stitches than other areas increasing the risk of stretching and puckering.  For that reason, I started stitching the rooftops and shaded areas near the center of the canvas and worked outward...just as you would with a quilt.  Rather than stitching straight lines to fill in the color, I applied the thread as you would paint with a brush, that is, with swirling lines and shapes to help distinguish the different areas of the building, greenery and sky.   It takes miles of thread, but it is very therapeutic.  No rules! 

I used multiple colors in each area for depth and interest. 

After all the color is added, I finish by outlining some of the elements with black embroidery thread.  Windows, doors, detailed roof tiles, etc.  It is personal preference.  Perhaps it is the same instinct that makes me want to use ink and watercolor.
I just like the look.   

All done!  
I had fun.  I hope you enjoyed following along.  Please visit again.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sewing a Martingale Dog Collar

Panzer is a beauty.  
As a rescue greyhound, he is spending retirement in a loving home.

We recently visited family in Kentucky.  One of our Kentucky families has a rescue greyhound, Panzer.  They asked if I would make him a new martingale collar.  Having never been around greyhounds, I was unfamiliar with martingale collars.  They provided an old collar to use for sizing and hardware.  I was excited to give it a try. 

Because there are patterns and tutorials available online, I did not need to struggle with reverse engineering the old collar.  Even with a good tutorial, several failed attempts resulted in a few changes to accommodate the products I could find. 

This blog is not a step-by-step on how to make the collar.  My intent is to explain my selection of products, as well as how and why I made minor changes to the pattern.  There are a lot of words, so you may prefer to follow along with the photo captions until you find something of interest.  


The old collar was made of nylon webbing, with a soft lining inside and decorative jacquard ribbon outside.  It was two inches wide with sturdy hardware.  I did a little research to understand what makes a good martingale collar.  It seems the best rated collars have three primary attributes:
  • Sturdy webbing or fabric that dries quickly with no irritation to the dog's skin
  • Strong hardware that will not rust or pull apart
  • Attractive
The pattern I used is free online at Country Brook Design.  It is step-by-step, with pictures and good explanation.  Although they have a chart for sizing the collar, I used dimensions from the old collar.  As in anything, there are many ways to accomplish the same task.  The changes I made helped eliminate bulk and provided a more polished finish with my products.  

Beautiful solid brass D-ring and triglide sliders.  The tutorial calls for one triglide and two rectangles.  I used all triglide slides because that is what the old collar had.
I am sure both work equally well.
This hardware is shown on the black cotton twill fabric used for the final collars.

The lightweight fleece will be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.

I will say up front that Country Brook Design has webbing and hardware.  Strapworks in Eugene, is my go-to for good hardware, so that's where I purchased mine. 

The two-inch durable and decorative ribbon was more difficult.  I could not find it locally and turned to Etsy.  Since I could not examine the ribbon closely, I decided to stick with a two-inch woven jacquard ribbon as used in the old collar.  I found a limited variety on Etsy and purchased one yard each of two different styles.  I also purchased a small amount of soft flannel to use as liner.     

Trial and Error

Too bulky and stiff with untidy stitches.
The black hardware is attractive and strong, but it is plated.  I did not want to risk chipping, especially at the D-ring where a leash or tags might hook.

When the supplies arrived, I sewed a test strip layering the flannel, webbing and ribbon.  It was too thick and bulky. The webbing was very smooth, so I eliminated the flannel.  I felt confident enough to proceed with one of the jacquard ribbons.  That was a mistake.  Even after eliminating the flannel, the webbing and ribbon were difficult to sew and still too heavy and stiff.  I can re-use the hardware, but the ribbon and webbing are ruined.

On the third trial collar, I used cotton fabric (from my stash) with a good lightweight fleece stabilizer.  It went well enough that I completed it with hardware.  

Reasonably successful prototype using cotton fabrics and solid brass hardware.

It comes together

Finally, I used a black twill fabric with a two-inch strip of lightweight fusible fleece.  The lightweight fleece should be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.  

The stabilizer and straps are sewn differently than in the tutorial.  This method will reduce bulk resulting in sturdy flat strap ends.  No raw edges to deal with in tight spots.  Read on for more explanation.....

I cut one 20"x 5" twill rectangle for the large loop.  One 12"x 5" twill rectangle for the for small loop.  These dimensions accommodate 1/2" seam allowance on the long edge and 3/8" seam allowance on the ends.  You can use whatever seam allowance you want.  Simply adjust your fabric rectangles accordingly.  The lightweight fleece rectangles measure 20"x 2" and 12"x 2".  Fuse the fleece down the center of the fabric.
Fold the strips lengthwise.  With edges even, stitch the long edge leaving about 3 inches open in the center on the long tube and about 2 inches on the short tube.  The ends are still open.

Press flat with seam down the center.  Sew the ends and clip corners.
You will see later that it creates a neat and tidy end that is easier to work with than folding under raw edges.
The strips turned right side out using a handy tube turner.

For demonstration, this picture shows the interior lightweight fleece.  
 Once the fabric straps were turned right side out, I pressed again making sure the fabric at the opening meets in the middle.  You should not be able to see the stabilizer inside.  I stitched about 1/4 inch on both sides of the center seam.  This seam will be covered by ribbon, so it was not necessary.  However, the extra lines of stitching will add a little strength, ensure the lightweight fleece will not shift, and keep the width of the strap consistent when you are attaching the ribbon.  

The the lines of stitching along center seam are visible from the back, but not offensive.  Turn the ends of the ribbon under, and sew the ribbon to the twill by stitching close to the edge all the way around. 

Front side of long strap.  Back side of short strap.  Tidy ends - no bulk.

Now it is time to look back at the Country Brook Design tutorial.  The hardest part is stitching the small loop together.  You need to sew secure seams inside the small loop.   

A general sewing foot will grip and move the heavy fabric better, but makes it difficult to sew against the hardware.
A zipper foot makes sewing against the hardware a little easier.  You can sew a box and "x" pattern, as I did here, or several lines of straight stitches.  I carefully sew over the lines of stitching several times to ensure it will not come loose.
Follow the Country Brook Design tutorial to thread the tricky adjustment triglide slide.  The tutorial uses rectangle slides on the side of the small loop.  I used triglide slides because the original collar used triglides. I am sure they both work equally well.  

That's it!  A lovely martingale collar.  

Look at those sleek, flat seams!  

I enjoyed making these collars.  It was an interesting exercise.  This blue and black collar may become available in my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop.  For two reasons, it is probably the only one I will make to sell:
  • After purchasing nice jacquard ribbon and solid brass hardware, my costs were very near $20.  There are many competitively priced martingale collars on Etsy.  Perhaps they buy in bulk, or have a local source of ribbon and hardware eliminating shipping costs.  Scrimping on less expensive hardware would risk chipped finish, rust, or worst case, a lost dog because the hardware failed.  
  • The second reason is sizing.  Collars made custom to fit your dog would be ideal.  Accepting orders for custom collars, even with a reasonable turn-around is not something I would be comfortable doing.   You never know!....I might be in the middle of a clay doll project!  

That's it!  My experience and minor contribution to making a martingale collar! 

Thank you for visiting.  Please come back again.