Sewing 101 -- Just the Basics It is always fun to learn a new skill or craft. In the case of sewing, it can be both a household skill and a fun craft at the same time. The term "sewing" can encompass anything from simple repairs to full-blown projects such as clothing and household textiles. Whether you have ever sewed before, of if you are "crafty" are not an issue if you can thread a needle. If you can thread the needle then you can learn to sew; it really isn't hard to do with some basic instruction and practice. Whenever you are starting out to learn something new, it is always a challenge. There is so much information online and in books that it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. However, if you take the time to start with the very basic information and build your knowledge from there, then your skills will surely follow. Sewing Lessons -- Formal or Informal Learning to sew is really one of those "hands on" type things. You can easily learn to sew but you have to take the time to try it out and see what works for you. The easiest thing you can do is sign up for a sewing lesson at your local craft, sewing machine or quilting store. Generally any store which sells the more expensive sewing machines will offer lessons for free or at a very reasonable cost. You do not have to buy their sewing machine simply to take a class and try out sewing for yourself. Another more formal lesson environment can be your local adult school or community college. Many of these learning institutions offer low cost crafting and sewing classes to members of the local community. This can be a great option for learning a new skill and meeting people with a similar interest at the same time. If you have a friend or relative who knows how to sew, ask them to show you how. Find an easy project to start on and ask them if they will give you a hand at completing it and show you what you need to know. Most people are more than happy to spend time teaching people what they know. If no one in your area offers lessons, and you don't happen to know anyone who sews, you can always find tutorials and lessons online. Simply go to any search engine and type in the words "sewing lessons" and you will have thousands of options to choose from! Learn the Lingo Sewing, just like many other crafts, has its own language. It is very helpful to purchase a basic sewing book or look online to learn the most basic of sewing terms. None of the terms are difficult to learn, they are just simply different. And, by learning the sewing lingo you can much more easily follow directions for completing projects. Start Small and Easy Your first sewing projects should be simple and aimed at teaching you one specific skill. If you want to learn to make things for your home, for example, start with easy projects such as pillows. You can start with a simple square pillow and then move up to more complicated versions as you master sewing the straight lines of the square. If your goal is to start sewing clothing, you might want to start by making a skirt or something else which is forgiving of any mistakes you might have. Don't Spend a Lot of Money Until You Know What You Really Want from Sewing It is always exciting to learn something new and go out and buy all of the stuff you need to make whatever you want. However, rather than going out and buying a top-of-the-line sewing machine and tons of other items, start with things you have around your home and a very basic sewing machine. This will ensure that when you purchase things they end up being what you really want. Regardless of your sewing goals, be assured that you can absolutely learn how to sew. It is not a hard skill to learn, but it takes a bit of patience and practice to learn. Have fun with it and see where it takes you. Sewing Tips for Every Beginner Sewing can be a very rewarding hobby to take up. You can sew everything from clothing to bedding and other household decorative items. By learning basic sewing you can ensure that when your button pops off, or your hem comes out of your pants, that you can quickly and easily fix it. When we were growing up most of our mothers and grandmothers knew how to sew. As clothing has become cheaper and cheaper, sewing has become almost a lost art amongst the younger generations. Thankfully, the past few years has seen resurgence in sewing and other handcrafts. This is leading to a new availability of information on how to sew and supplies to learn to sew with. Sewing requires a unique set of skills. These skills are not complicated to learn, but there is a definite learning curve in learning to sew. If you jump in with both feet without a few basics you are surely setting yourself up to fail. The best way to develop your sewing skills is to start slow, learn, and work your way up to more complex projects as time goes on and you learn what you are doing. The first step in starting to sew is to gather up all of the items you need to complete your project. Get out your sewing machine booklet and thread your machine. Make sure, before you ever even attempt a project, that your machine is threaded correctly and working well. This will save you a ton of frustration. If you will be sewing something from a pattern, take the time to read through all of the instructions and make sure that you clearly understand them. Make sure to read and understand everything before you start to cut out your fabric. Remember that once you cut your fabric it will be in pieces and you can't just re-cut it. Before you work with your fabric, make sure you wash and dry it. This will ensure that your finished project will not shrink when you first wash it. Once it dries you will want to iron it out. Once your fabric is washed, dried, and ironed, then you can pin your pieces to the fabric and cut them out. Cut all of your pieces out using the sharpest pair of scissors you can find. Using sharp scissors cuts down on frustration and keeps your fabric looking good at the edges. When you first start sewing you will want to baste your pattern pieces together with long hand stitches. This allows you to see how your project will look once you have sewn it together on your machine. And, it allows you to make adjustments much more easily if you should happen to need to. One good tip here is to use a bright colored thread for basting. This will allow you to easily remove it once your project is sewn together. The most important thing for you to remember when you first start sewing is that "Rome was not built in a day." Start with a very simple project and take your time. Then start a more complex project and take some time to learn a new skill or two when completing it. As you progress through your various projects you will feel more and more confident in your sewing abilities. After all, you are learning to sew because it is functional and fun! How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Ask anyone who sews, and they will tell you that the best utilitarian invention of the last two hundred years, by far, is the sewing machine. The sewing machine allows you to sew your garments and household decor items quickly and skillfully. A sewing machine makes quick work of sewing even large pieces of fabric together which in the past would have taken hours to do by hand. As the sewing machine has evolved, it has taken on a whole new dimension in crafting. What was once used simply to save time making useful items is now able to do complex, colorful embroidery and do many other creative tasks much more quickly than can be done by hand. The possibilities are literally endless with today's modern sewing machines. Because every sewer is an individual, it is impossible to say there is one "best" sewing machine out there for everyone. Your sewing needs should ultimately dictate the machine you purchase. For example, if you never plan on doing machine embroidery, then you do not need a sewing machine capable of doing it. You can save your money because embroidery sewing machines are much more expensive than a more basic model which will meet your needs just fine. The first thing you should do is sit down and make a list of all of the things you want your sewing machine to be able to do for you. Do you want embroidery capability? Do you want free-arm capability? Do you want to be able to quilt with your sewing machine? Will you we sewing on very heavy fabrics such as denim? By answering these questions you can form a good list of your sewing machine expectations. If you are new to sewing it is a great idea to get together with other people you know who own sewing machines and see if you can try theirs out. Ask if they will let you try sewing on their machine and will tell you all of the things they like and dislike about their particular models. This can help you determine a good machine brand versus a dud. If you bring along your list of "wants" you can see if their machine will meet all of your needs or not as well. Once you have some idea of what you might want in a sewing machine, hit the Internet and do some serious research. Go to manufacture websites as well as those which are owned by sewing experts. Read what is out on the web and see if the machine you are interested in gets good reviews or bad. People like to complain, so you might find complaints about every sewing machine out there. Ignore the one or two complaints but listen to those where you start reading the same criticism over and over again. One or two people can be a fluke, but twenty people are probably not. Once you have a good idea of what sewing machine you want to purchase for yourself, then go out into the stores and look at them. Look at sewing machine stores and even at your local craft stores as well. Go armed with your list and with enough knowledge to not "over-buy" a machine. Stay steadfast at your goal of getting what you want and need and not paying extra for features which you will never use. When you are in the stores ask to test out the machines and see if you can find one that you really like that meets your needs. If you can then that is your machine. If you cannot, then it is time to move on to another shop. Purchasing a sewing machine is an investment in your craft so it is important to take the time and make the right choice. Make sure you find just the right machine for your needs and it will serve you well for many sewing years to come. Your Very First Sewing Project Congratulations on your decision to try sewing. Sewing really is much easier than you probably think that it is. Sewing is very similar to putting the pieces of a puzzle together and then sewing them to permanently attach them together; it really isn't much more complicated that that to make a basic project. Sewing can be a fun hobby and also can allow you to make your own clothing and decorative items. Imagine being able to use whatever fabrics and colors you want around your house or for your wardrobe! The easiest project for a brand new sewer is to make a simple pillow or dress. Pillows can be made from two squares of fabric simply sewn together and then stuffed. To make a pillow you don't even need a pattern. If you can cut out a square then you can make a great pillow. If you want to make a clothing item for your first sewing project, I suggest you start with a simple summer type dress. Having something useful and pretty when you get done can give you an amazing sense of accomplishment. If you have a young child to sew for you can make a child sized dress, otherwise try one for an adult. If you have never sewn before you will need to gather up all of the following for your first project: - A pattern - Fabric - Thread - Fusible Interfacing - Sharp scissors - Pins and a needle - Anything else listed on the pattern - A basic sewing machine The first thing you need to do is get your sewing machine threaded and working. You should have a manual with instructions on how to do this correctly. No two machines are the same so you will need to do this part on your own. Once you have your machine threaded, and all of your items gather up together on your sewing table, you will want to read over any instructions that came with your pattern to make sure that you clearly understand them. On the back of the pattern you will find measurements, fabric suggestions, and other information you need to understand fully. You should always make sure you completely understand your directions and have everything you need before you ever start cutting your fabric. Decide which "view" of the pattern you want to use (i.e. sleeveless, with sleeves, short dress, long dress, etc: ) and see which letter corresponds to it. This will tell you which pieces you need to cut through. When you select your fabric try to stick to lightweight fabric without too many designs or stripes on it. Do not attempt to work with plaid on your first try! The last thing you want to have to deal with when you are fist starting out is matching plaid or designs. Start simple, and work yourself up. Wash your fabric and put it through the dryer. This will insure that if your fabric is going to shrink, then it will do it before you make your dress. The last thing you want to do is make a dress and have it shrink in the washer and not be able to wear it. Place your pattern pieces on your fabric and pin them in place. You will find a map, of sorts, on the instruction page to show you how to lay out your pieces on the fabric. Once you have them all placed and pinned you can start to cut out your fabric with very sharp scissors. The instructions will lead you through how to sew your pattern pieces together to make your dress. Follow the instructions and take your time. Make sure you understand completely what you are asked to do before you attempt to sew anything. Once you understand then you can start to sew your pieces together. Start with two pieces and work until you have your dress completed. If you hit a snag you can always call someone who sews or go into your fabric store and ask for help. They would be thrilled to help you! Once you are finished, wear your new dress with the pride that comes with knowing that you made it yourself! Creative Couching Adds Pizzazz to Your Sewn Projects An interesting way to add color, texture and dimension to your sewn items, is to add couching. Couching is derived from the French word couchier and is the art of embroidering by laying threads flat on a surface and sewing them down by stitches sewn at regular intervals. In centuries past, couching was a very popular form of decoration for the upper-class clothing of the time. People of means would often wear items which were covered in couched and embroidered designs. The couching of today is generally done by laying a length of yarn, cord, or ribbon down on a piece of fabric, and then sewing it in place with a zigzag or other decorative stitch. Today, couching is used to sew on many of the more decorative fibers and trims available to those who sew at their local craft stores. Applying any type of trim or embellishment to fabric can very drastically alter its appearance. Couching can be used to embellish and it can also be used to hide unsightly mistakes or damage on a fabric. If your garment has a stain on it, you can apply something over the stain by couching and have a renewed garment in no time. Couching By Machine -- The Presser Feet, Needles and Thread Options Couching by sewing machine can easily be accomplished with the help of the correct presser foot, needles, and threads. There are five different types of presser feet which are used with couching. They are: A Cording Foot -- Has a small loop attached to the foot which you feed in a small braid, yarn or ribbon. This can be used to help you position your trim so that it is right-side facing up. An Open-Toe Embroidery Presser Foot -- Is the basic presser foot used for couching because it can handle all types of materials and allows you to see them while they are guided and sewing into position on your project. A Multi-Cord Presser Foot -- This presser foot allows you to couch with multiple cords at the same time. A Blind-Hem Presser Foot -- Allows you to sew on thicker trims and near the edge of your fabric. A Beading Presser Foot -- Allows you to easily apply strands of beads which can be wider than normal couching materials. In addition to using a special presser foot for couching you will want to use a larger than normal sewing needle. This is especially true when you are couching using denser fabrics or trims. When you select the thread for your sewing machine and bobbin you need to take into account if you want the thread to blend in or be visible. Using metallic threads can give your couching a whole new dimension. You will want your bobbin thread to match your sewing thread for couching. In addition, if you are using a light weight fabric to couch on, you will want to use a fabric stabilizer. You can stabilize your fabric by either sewing in a light knit interfacing or by using a tear-away stabilizing product. As you can see, by using a couple special items and your sewing machine you can use couching to embellish you sewing projects. While couching is not difficult, it does take a bit of time to learn how to do. By taking the time and using the right items, your couching will be looking professional in no time. A Guide to Your Sewing Basket Essentials Every home should have a basic sewing basket at the ready for those times when you need to sew on a quick button or fix a ripped seam. By having a sewing basket will all of your basic sewing essentials in one place, you can be ready for any small sewing emergency which might crop up at any time. The first thing you will need to have is a sewing basket itself. You do not need to go out and purchase a basket made especially for sewing; any box with compartments will work great. Many people prefer to use a fishing tackle box because they give you a lot of small compartments to store your various items in. By having many compartments you can keep your sewing basket in order and free from clutter. Once you have your sewing basket or box, it is time to start acquiring the necessary basics you will need to sew. There are a few things that every sewing basket should have. They are: Sharp Scissors Using dull scissors is one of the most frustrating things you can do when you are sewing. Dull scissors make your project much harder than it needs to be. A good quality pair of very sharp scissors will save you a ton of frustration and time. Your projects will also turn out better and have cleaner lines to them. Having a sharp pair of scissors available without having to hunt around the house for them is a must for any sewing basket. A Variety of Pins and Needles What you will be sewing dictates which needles you will need. Needles come in a variety of sizes and sharpness to be used with different fabric types. In your sewing box you will want to have very sharp needles and some which are blunt ended. You will also want to have large needles and small ones. In addition to needles you will want to have plenty of pins to use to hold things together while you are sewing them. Magnetic Pin Holder Rather than a traditional fabric pin cushion, a magnetic pin holder can make your use of pins and needles easier. Also, when you are finished for the day, you can simply wave your magnetic pin holder over your work area and attract up all of the stray pins before they end up on the floor and in someone's foot. A magnetic pin holder is a staple for any sewing basket. Threads No sewing basket is complete without threads. You will want a selection of a variety of colors and thread weights. The last thing you want to do is find yourself needing to sew on a dark button and only having white thread to do it with. Many stores sell a package of small spools of various thread colors. In addition, there is some wonderful denim thread available if you will be sewing on jeans. Stitch Gage A stitch gage looks like a small ruler with a sliding gage on it. The stitch gage is used to help you measure and also to help you sew straight seams and hems every single time. Taylor's Chalk Taylor's chalk is a must for making markings on your fabric and cutting out patterns. The chalk is easily removed from your final product Anti-Fray Solution Anti-fraying solution can be applied to the edges of your fabric to keep it from fraying while you work with it. The solution resembles super glue and can safely be used on most fabrics. Pinking Shears Pinking shears are a special type of scissors which cut fabric so that the edges are zigzagged. This zigzagging keeps fragile fabric edges from fraying. If you will be working with a fabric with a tendency to fray, such as satin, you will find that pinking shears make your life a whole lot easier. Elastic Puller Elastic pullers are used to pull elastic through casings in your projects. They are very inexpensive and indispensable if you will be working with elastics. If you take the time to stock your sewing basket with the above items, you will be ready for any sewing emergency or project. And, you can be the hero of the house when a button falls off ten minutes before your family leaves for a special occasion. The Must Have Sewing Gadgets Sewing is a unique hobby because it can be both fun and practical all at the same time. You can sew clothing items and decorative items for your home also simply by learning the basics of sewing. Ever since the day where man began walking upright, people have been sewing. Sewing started out as a very primitive and simple stitch to make clothing and utilitarian items. As time passed, people began to sew more advanced and interesting clothing and decorative items. Today, people all over the face of the globe sew, both men and women. The majority of people today do not need to sew their own clothing. Clothing is readily available in most of the world. However, many people enjoy sewing and enjoy the fact that they can make something themselves. In order to be successful at your own attempt to sew, there are some neat gadgets which can help you out. Let's take a moment and look at some of them: A Sewing Box A sewing box is a must for all households, in my opinion. Whether you sew or just simply mend things from time to time, a sewing box to keep your supplies in will save you a lot of time and money. By having a dedicated sewing box for your supplies, you will always know where things are when you have to sew back on a button or hem a pair of pants. Very Sharp Scissors Using dull scissors is one of the most frustrating things you can do when you are sewing. Dull scissors make your project much harder than it needs to be. A good quality pair of very sharp scissors will save you a ton of frustration and time. Your projects will also turn out better and have cleaner lines to them. Pinking Shears Pinking shears are a special type of scissors which cut fabric so that the edges are zigzagged. This zigzagging keeps fragile fabric edges from fraying. If you will be working with a fabric with a tendency to fray, such as satin, you will find that pinking shears make your life a whole lot easier. Stitch Gage A stitch gage looks like a small ruler with a sliding gage on it. The stitch gage is used to help you measure and also to help you sew straight seams and hems every single time. Taylor's Chalk Taylor's chalk is a must for making markings on your fabric and cutting out patterns. The chalk is easily removed from your final product Anti-Fray Solution Anti-fraying solution can be applied to the edges of your fabric to keep it from fraying while you work with it. The solution resembles super glue and can safely be used on most fabrics. Magnetic Pin Holder Rather than a traditional fabric pin cushion, a magnetic pin holder can make your use of pins and needles easier. Also, when you are finished for the day, you can simply wave your magnetic pin holder over your work area and attract up all of the stray pins before they end up on the floor and in someone's foot. Elastic Puller Elastic pullers are used to pull elastic through casings in your projects. They are very inexpensive and indispensable if you will be working with elastics. In addition to these gadgets, you should also consider a good cover for your sewing machine to keep out dust and dirt. This will help your machine running well for years to come without having to pay for costly maintenance. Another good item to have in your sewing room is a comprehensive book on sewing techniques. As you sew more, you want to try out new things and add extra excitement to your items. With a good sewing book you will have a reference on hand that you can use. By purchasing the gadgets above, a sewing machine cover, and a good sewing book, you will be well on your way to sewing amazing items. Sewing isn't really that hard to master, and when you have all of the tools you will need, it is just that much easier. Teaching Sewing as a Viable Home Business As the predictions continue about the economy of the world, and the sustainability of our planet, many people are starting to look back at how our forefathers chose to do things in their lives and are trying to learn from their experiences. One of the things than many people today cannot do well, and yet want to learn to do, is sewing. Sewing allows you to make useful and decorative items; however, it also allows you to reuse fabrics in a new way once an original item is not longer needed or wanted. With some simple sewing skills people can take outgrown clothing and make quilts for beds. They can take unwanted skirts and make pillow cases. The sewing options are limitless once you know the basics of how to sew. Because many young people of today were not taught sewing by their parents and grandparents, there is a real need for those who know how to sew to teach others. If you know how to sew, and can teach others, you have a very marketable skill. You can every easily set-up your own home-based business of teaching other people how to sew. With your business teaching people to sew, you can teach small classes or individuals. You can choose to teach adults or children, or even a combination of the two. To ensure that your business is the best it can possibly be, and has the best shot at being successful for the long-haul, you will need to follow some time-tested home business strategies. Let's take a moment to briefly look at each of them: The Business Plan No matter what business you decide to start, you 100% have to have a solid business plan. There is no way possible to have a successful business venture without one. The best way to develop your business plan is to think about all of the variables which go into your unique business, and what your ultimate short-term and long-term goals are for the business. With all of this information, you can sit down and formulate a business plan without it taking you a lot of valuable time. Licensing and Regulations Depending on the city, county, and possibly state you live in, you may have to get a business license to have a legal home-based business. The way to determine what the local rules and regulations are is to call up your local city and county government offices and ask them what you need to do. If you live in a state with sales tax, you should call up your state Controller's Office and ask about obtaining a seller's permit. You will most likely find that most government offices are supportive and helpful in getting you situated in a place where your business is legal. Insurance If you are conducting business out of your home, then you need to have a business liability insurance policy. Your regular homeowner's policy will not cover any aspects of your business in the case of disaster. Home business liability insurance is fairly inexpensive and an absolute must have especially if people are coming to your home to learn how to sew. Financial Records The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep good business records from day one of your business. Start with the fees to get a business license, and start recording every single business expense that you have. By doing this as you go you will save both yourself and your tax preparer a ton of headaches come tax time. Congratulations on your decision to start your own business teaching other people how to sew. This will be a very rewarding venture for both yourself and your students! Sewing Zippers: You Can Learn How Imagine your life today if the zipper had never been invented. How would you fasten your clothing? In truth, before the zipper was invented, clothing was fastened by dozens of hooks and buttons. This task was arduous and garments were much more uncomfortable to wear as well. Now days we just simply "zip up" and are on our way out the door. Sewing a zipper can seem like a very scary proposition for people new to sewing. New sewers often avoid patterns with zippers, fearing that they will not be able to successfully sew the zipper into place. The truth of the matter is that it really isn't hard to sew in a zipper if you take the time to learn to do it correctly. With a few simple tips and tricks of the trade, you can be sewing zippers like a pro. The Zipper Foot The first thing you will need to do is insure that you have a zipper foot for your sewing machine. A standard sewing machine foot will not allow you to sew close enough to the zipper teeth to get the job done successfully. If you do not have a zipper foot, then you will want to contact your local sewing machine store or the manufacturer to purchase one. The Lapped Zipper Many zippers today are sewing in what is referred to as a "lapped closure." A lapped closure hides the zipper's teeth from view and is generally used for higher-end clothing or when a zipper doesn't match the fabric of a garment closely. A lapped closure is also used when you have a garment made of pile or delicate fabrics. By utilizing this type of closure you can help to assure the fabric will not get trapped in the zipper teeth and ruined. A lapped zipper is located under a single flap of fabric. There is only one line of stitching you can see from the outside of the garment. Lapped zippers can most commonly be found in dressy pants and skirts. The Centered Zipper The centered zipper is the most often used in sewing garments today. The centered zipper is sewn into the back or front of a garment. Centered zippers are perfect for everyday clothing, purses, and household decorative items as well as those made from heavyweight fabrics such as denim. A centered zipper is covered by two equal flaps of fabric. Sewing around the Zipper Tab One of the most complicated parts of sewing a zipper into your project is usually sewing neatly around the zipper tab. The good news is that you can purchase a zipper which is one or two inches longer than you need and not have to sew around the zipper tab at all. When you take this route, you simply trim the extra to the required length. Does Your Zipper Pucker? If you have problems with zippers puckering when you sew them in lightweight fabrics, try interfacing the seam allowances before inserting your zipper. By doing this you can create cleaner lines and a crisper look which is much less likely to pucker. Basting Tape Is Your Friend Most people who sew hate to baste. Basting something into place is time consuming and requires tedious hand sewing. Rather than basting your zippers into place, use basting tape instead. Basting tape is a two-sided, wash-away tape which will hold your zipper in place while you machine sew it into your garment. Once your garment is made and washed, the tape will disappear. By using the hints above you can confidently sew a zipper into your garments. As with anything else, the more you practice the better you will be. So, get sewing! Sewing for Charity Causes If you are like many people who enjoy sewing, after a while you develop a large stash of extra fabric and embellishments and start to wonder what you can make with all of it. We all do it; we go into the craft or fabric store and cannot resist all of the amazing new fabrics. We buy all of it with the best of intentions and then we put it in the sewing room never to be seen again. As the years pass, those fabric pieces seem to grow and multiply and before you know it, you have more fabric pieces than you know what to do with. One of the best ways to use up those extra swatches of fabrics, fabric scraps, and embellishments, cluttering up your sewing room, is to sew some items for a charitable organization. There are many non-profit organizations all over the world that would be thrilled to receive a gift of your sewn creations. Sewing for charity allows you to spend time doing something you love and give to others less fortunate than yourself at the same time. It is truly a win-win-win situation for you, the charity, and the recipient as well. No matter what you love to sew, there is a charitable project out there which will fit your skills and which you can enjoy making. You might be a great quilter, stuffed toy maker, clothing maker, or even someone who loves to sew useful but simple items, like blankets or pillowcases, for use around the home. Just about anything you might make for your friends and family you can make for a charity organization. And, the items you sew will be greatly appreciated. Quilts and Bedding There are many organizations who accept quilts and other bedding items which you can sew. These organizations range from your local peace officers, to the homeless in the United States, to orphanages around the globe. Scrap quilts or "crazy" quilts are made from a variety of fabric scraps and are very easy to make. They can be made from virgin fabrics or from old clothing items. And, the best thing about crazy quilts is that they do not require you to have any special sewing skills. If you can simply sew two pieces of fabric together then you can make a crazy quilt. Another simple project is making pillows and pillowcases. Both only involve being able to sew in a straight line. You can use existing pillows and pillowcases as patterns. Stuffed Toys, Fabric Books, and Character Pillows Unfortunately, there is no shortage of neglected or abused children all over the world. Thankfully, today there are many organizations that help to make trying times for children a bit easier. Often, groups such as your local police officers and fire fighters, will carry stuffed toys, fabric books, and character pillows around in the trunk of their vehicles. These items are given to children to comfort them when a tragedy happens and they need to be separated from their parents. Many children's items are simple to make but will make such a huge difference in the life of a child. Sewing for children's organization is a wonderful opportunity to help others. Clothing for Adults and Children Many people have a need for various types of clothing items which are easy to sew. Chemotherapy patients need head coverings, and premature babies often need clothing or burial items which will fit their very small bodies. Both of these are serious needs and ways in which your sewing can greatly help out other people in their times of sorrow and need. No matter what your sewing ability, or what your economic status, you can sew for charity. Whether you make crazy quilts out of old cast-off clothing, or you make chemotherapy caps for cancer patients, your items will be cherished and appreciated for years to come. Today is the day to dig through your fabric stash and see what you could use to help others. Sewing Elastic Made Easy One of the most challenging things for new sewers is sewing in elastic to their craft projects and garments. Elastic is a bit tricky, because if you don't do it correctly it can easily ruin your project by making it look horrible and bunchy. Nothing is worse than sewing a great item and having your elastic turn into a "lettuce edge" looking mess on you. Because elastic comes in many forms, as do fabrics, it is very important to know your basics about both of them before you attempt to sew elastic. By learning about fabrics and elastics you can ensure that you use the right one of both for your project for the best results. To sew elastic, the best thing you can do is to use a stretch needle and a longer stitch length than normal while sewing. Generally a long stitch length of three or four is best for most fabrics and most elastic types. The best elastic products to use are Ban-Rol, Stretch and Sew, and Stretch-Rite Sport Elastic. Each of these three products can be found online or at your local sewing or craft store. They are each of good quality, last a long time, and are the easiest to sew with. To sew in your elastic, start with a strip of elastic about four or five inches smaller than the fabric opening you want to elasticize. Cut the two ends so that they will meet-up with each other and not overlap. One of the best ways to do this is cut them into triangular ends and have them meet up on a diagonal. If you overlap your elastic you will have an unsightly and uncomfortable bump in your finished project, which you definitely do not want. Take your elastic and zigzag stitch it together by sewing back and forth over it a few times where the two ends of the elastic meet up. The best sewing machine setting to use for this is to use a wide, three-step zigzag. Once you have completed sewing your elastic together, then pull on your elastic circle to ensure that it is secured and will not come apart. Once you are sure that it will not separate, you can then use it in your project and know it will last. When you put in your elastic, make sure to pin it at even quarters in your project. By dividing the fabric evenly in quarters, and the elastic itself, you can make sure that your final project looks its best and will not bunch up in one area and be loose in another. The next thing you need to do is to vertically sew in your elastic at each of these four points. Do these before you start sewing and you will not need to deal with popping pins and diagonal pulls as you sew in the elastic. Again, using a wide, long zigzag stitch, to allow for the elastic to move and shape your project, and stretch your elastic and sew the top of it into place. Continue to sew around the top of the elastic and then move on to sewing the bottom of the elastic. By using this technique to sew elastic, you should have perfectly elasticized sewing projects which will last and stretch for years to come. Sewing as a Business Congratulations on your decision to start a home sewing business; before you is a very exciting time in your life! To ensure that your business is the best it can possibly be, and has the best shot at being successful for the long-haul, you will need to follow some time-tested home business strategies. Let's take a moment to briefly look at each of them: The Business Plan No matter what business you decide to start, you 100% have to have a solid business plan. There is no way possible to have a successful business venture without one. The best way to develop your business plan is to think about all of the variables which go into your unique business, and what your ultimate short-term and long-term goals are for the business. With all of this information, you can sit down and formulate a business plan without it taking you a lot of valuable time. If you are attempting to obtain financing for your sewing business, you will have to have a business plan in place to show your potential lenders. Your business plan shows lenders that you are serious about your business, and also how it will be profitable to allow you to pay them back. Do not attempt financing without a good solid business plan because you are simply wasting your time. Licensing and Regulations Depending on the city, county, and possibly state you live in, you may have to get a business license to have a legal home-based business. The way to determine what the local rules and regulations are is to call up your local city and county government offices and ask them what you need to do. If you live in a state with sales tax, you should call up your state Controller's Office and ask about obtaining a seller's permit. You will most likely find that most government offices are supportive and helpful in getting you situated in a place where your business is legal. Insurance If you are conducting business out of your home, then you need to have a business liability insurance policy. Your regular homeowner's policy will not cover any aspects of your business in the case of disaster. Home business liability insurance is fairly inexpensive and an absolute must have. Financial Records The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep good business records from day one of your business. Start with the fees to get a business license, and start recording every single business expense that you have. By doing this as you go you will save both yourself and your tax preparer a ton of headaches come tax time. Setting Your Prices The number one mistake many home-based sewing businesses make is to charge too little for their services. You need to make a living, and you need to be pricing your items and services accordingly. Whatever you do, do not sell yourself short! Ask a going rate for your items and services and expect that people will pay you what your time and product is worth. This allows you to work smarter and not harder! Marketing Marketing is simply getting the word out and letting others know your business exists. You can market online, through a press release sent to your local newspaper, flyers, brochures, craft fair booths, etc: Anywhere you come into contact with potential customers you can market your items and services. You can even do simple things like always carry business cards, available these days very inexpensively online, and hand them out to everyone you meet as you go through your days. The absolute best way to market your business is through word-of-mouth. Once your business gets going, if you treat your customers well, then they will tell their friends and family about you; this will bring you more customers without having to pay a dime to advertise. As you can see there are a lot of things for you to consider when you are thinking about starting a home-based sewing business. However, your business can be very successful and profitable if you take the time to make it so. Matching Plaid and Designs for Your Sewing Projects Plaid and patterned fabrics are all the rage once again. This means that if you are going to sew with either plaid or a patterned fabric then you need to learn how to match-up the fabric so your resulting project looks the best it possibly can. While matching up fabrics can take a bit more time, and a larger piece of fabric, you can easily learn to deal with it and sew wonderful looking items. Marking and Matching When you are sewing with a plaid or pattern it is important that you match at the seams. Plaid comes in two basic forms; balanced or unbalanced. Balanced plaid is one which has a symmetrical repeat of the stripes and colors. Unbalanced plaid is one which has an asymmetrical repeat of the stripes and colors. When you are working with balanced plaid you want to make sure that you have some extra fabric to work with. However, when you are working with an unbalanced plaid you will need much more fabric available for matching. Similarly, a balanced or unbalanced plaid with a smaller design requires less extra fabric; one with a larger design requires more. Also, if your pattern has a lot of pieces you will use more fabric in the process of matching things up. A good rule of thumb is to purchase at least two extra repeats of the fabric design. If you are relatively new to sewing, you should choose a pattern without too many seams. This will keep you from having to match up a ton of seams. Also, if your pattern is cut on the bias, this will result in a chevron seam. For a chevron seam you need to be working with a balanced plaid as an unbalanced plaid will not work. Single Layer Layout and Cutting When you are trying to match up plaids or patterns, you will want to always lay out and cut out your patterns in a single layer. Single layer cutting will insure that you have just the right design in the right place on the fabric. You will need to remember to flip over your pattern pieces to get matching seams on balanced plaids; and to cut with the nap on an unbalanced plaid (i.e. the top of all pattern pieces should be facing the same direction). To match up your fabric to your pattern, the first thing you want to do is place you main pattern piece on the fabric. This will generally be the bodice front or skirt front if you are making clothing.) Once this piece is in place, you will then want to pin in place the other pattern pieces. As you are matching up your pattern pieces you will want to take special notice to make sure that the pattern at the top, bottom and sides all look like you want them to on your finished project. If your project has pockets you can cut those on the bias for an attractive look, or you can match them up to the rest of your project. Measure Twice, Cut Once You will need to lay out all of your separate pattern pieces and lightly pin them into place. Once you have done this, you will want to look everything over to make sure the plaid or design is all matched and you are happy with the placement of the design on your project. Once you have done this step, then you can pin down your pieces and cut out your pattern. By using these tips you will be sewing with plaids and patterns like a professional in no time.
How to Choose the Right Fabric for Your Sewing Project Sewing is one of the most practical, and fun, hobbies available to you today. By learning to sew you can easily create items for around your home and even make your own clothing. Sewing will allow you to save money and also have the items you want, in the fabrics and colors you choose. However, choosing the right fabric for your sewing project makes all the difference in whether or not your project will be a success or a failure. Here are some tips and tricks to get you on the road to choosing the appropriate fabric for any sewing project: Read Your Pattern If you will be sewing from a pattern, read the back of the package the pattern came in to see what fabric the pattern maker suggests. While you can ultimately use any fabric you choose, the pattern maker gives you an idea of the fabric choices the pattern was ideally made for. You will generally have the best end result if you stick to fabric similar to that listed on the pattern. Examine the Fabric When you go to your local fabric or craft store to purchase your fabric, spend some time touching and feeling the fabric. Look it over very well and look for bad signs such as fraying. You can be assured that if the fabric is fraying on the bolt, then it will be fraying when you try to make your project. Similarly, if the fabric is rolling up onto itself on the bolt, then it will do the same to you once you get it home and try to work with it. Another thing to look for is wrinkles. Does the fabric wrinkle easily? You can test this by scrunching it up in your hand and looking at the result. If the result is a wrinkled mess, and you can't easily smooth it out with your hands, then you can be assured it will wrinkle once your project is completed. While you are examining the fabric take the time to look at the top of the bolt and see if there are any special care instructions listed. For everyday items and casual clothing, try to stick to fabrics which are machine washable and dryable. Working with Satin and T-Shirt Knit Two of the hardest fabrics to work with are satin and t-shirt knit. The satin is so slick that it wants to fall off of your sewing table while you are cutting it. Then once it is cut, it doesn't want to stay together for you to sew it. The best thing you can do to work with satin is to buy special, very small, pins called "silk pins." These pins will help your fabric stay together for sewing and will not leave holes in your finished product. T-shirt knits tend to want to roll up constantly. This means that when you are sewing with it you will have to be unrolling it and holding it in place to sew your seams. While t-shirt knits can make some wonderful items, they are a bit of a bear to sew with. If you are new to sewing you might want to avoid satin and t-shirt knits until you get a bit more sewing experience under your belt. Cotton Fabrics One of the easiest fabrics to sew with is cotton. Cotton is comfortable to wear and looks great on. However, if you will be sewing with cotton, or a fabric such as wool or linen, know that it will shrink when washed and dried. The first thing you will need to do with cotton is to wash and dry it before you ever cut out your pattern. This will help to ensure that your finished product will stay the same size after laundering. If you will be working with wool or linen you can both wash it and let it shrink or you can commit to only dry cleaning your finished items. The most important thing you will need to do is to find the right fabric for your project. You can accomplish this by reading the pattern and really looking well at any fabric you might want to use. Make sure when you get your fabric home that you know how to care for it and prepare it for use. Once you have done these things you can ensure a wonderful finished project which will last for years to come. 2008 Fashion Trends for Sewing Projects It's always fun to look at the latest issue of Vogue and other fashion and decorating magazines, and see what the latest upcoming styles will be. This helps us home sewers get good ideas for things we can make to wear and for decorating our homes. Keeping up with fashion is a good idea for all sewers because it insures that your sewing items are current to the times and will be able to be used for the longest period of time possible. The look coming in Spring 2008 appears to be a throw-back to the 1950's. Such items as high heeled pumps, slim skirts, large belts, and loose blouses with puffy collars and sleeves appear to be becoming all the rage once again. It appears that the days of butts hanging out of low-rise jeans are ending and a more sophisticated look is returning to the mainstream. For many of us, this couldn't have come at a better time; unless you are a six foot tall pencil, the fashions of 2007 just aren't that flattering. Some of the latest staples of your wardrobe should be: * A slim skirt * A wide belt * A great fitting pair of slacks * A fitted jacket * Shaped t-shirts * Wrap blouses and dresses * Metallic accents including grey metals and gold * Denim items This short list should give you a million and one ideas of items you can sew. Wraps are simple to do as are straight skirts and belts. Another easy thing you can do is purchase something ready to wear, or take something already in your closet, and add some metallic embellishments to it. This is a great way to recycle your older styles and make them current so you can get more wear out of them. The colors for the coming seasons appear to be shades of grey, black and red. Use these colors to add to your classic wardrobe in unique ways. Belts make great accent items as do simple wrap blouses. As we all know, the best thing about being able to sew our clothing is that we can make what we want, in our own colors and style, and have it fit our unique body types exactly how we want them to. Use this advantage and create some items for your wardrobe which will make you stick out from the crowd and have the other ladies at work asking; "Where did you get that?" I was shopping recently at the mall and found a wonderful, simple slim skirt and the price tag blew me away at almost $200. If you can make one, and others like it, you could easily pay for your sewing by making a couple extra to sell. Or, you can simply delight in the fact that other people think you spend a fortune on your outfit, but the truth is that you made it all for yourself! No matter what your level of sewing experience is, you can sew yourself some wonderful items which will be in fashion for Spring 2008. Take a bit of time and look around to see what the new up-and-coming items will be and decide what you can make for yourself. The hardest thing about sewing is getting started -- so do it today! Embroidery 101 an Overview and History The art of embroidery has been practiced in one form or another throughout the ages. Embroidery is simply defined as thread embellishment on cloth. Practically as long as there has existed cloth, there has existed embroidery. Some of the most famous civilizations for creating brilliant embroidery creations are the Japanese and the English. They both used embroidery to decorate ceremonial garments as well as decorative home items. While the Japanese are most known for their amazing kimonos, the English are well known for their hand embroidered fabric furniture panels. Unfortunately for collectors, many of the works of embroidery art of the past have been lost to time and decay. The silk threads and fabrics are very prone to damage by insects and light. It is very unlikely these days to find a work made prior to the mid 1600's. Examples from earlier than this time only exist in museums, and churches who have taken the care to restore and preserve them. There are two major forms of embroidery from the past which are collected today; they are: stump work and samplers. Stump work was made in the mid-seventeenth century and consists of a highly colored, embroidered design on white silk. Often the works are done of scenes of people and carved wooden heads, hands and feet are added to these works of art. Often found with stump work are padded areas which are used to make the designs three dimensional and interesting to the eye. Stump work was made to depict scenes of live at the time and was used to cover mirror frames, and to cover trinket boxes. These trinket boxes were generally made with many small drawers and with secret compartments for hiding valuables such as tea and jewelry. Often the trinket boxes contained mirrors and were lined with paper and metallic tapes. Serious collectors today are still discovering wonderful stump work to add to their collections. In the past, as part of the regular school curriculum of girls, embroidery was taught. These very young students, sometimes as young as seven or eight years old, would show their sewing skills by creating colorful samplers. The samplers would showcase their sewing skills as well as their knowledge of the numbers and alphabets. Many samplers were created which depict the children, their interests and their school buildings as well. Samplers were generally stitched on wool or silk fabrics with very colorful silk and metallic threads and can still be found for purchase today. Very old or very decorative samplers today are worth a lot of money to the collectors who are fortunate enough to own them. Some of the most unusual embroidery throughout the times has been that of maps. Maps were drawn on silk and then stitched. The names of countries and other places of interest were stitched on the maps. If you have ever tried any form of hand embroidery, you know it is a slow and tedious process. The results are amazing, but it can take a very long time to achieve even the simplest of designs. This makes all embroidered fabrics from the past very collectable today by those who understand all of the hours and patience which went into creating the works of art. While children around the world no longer do embroidery as part of their school curriculum, the art is still practiced by adults all over the globe. Create Personalized Gifts with Simple Embroidery No matter what the gift giving occasion, a personalized gift always shows the recipient that you took the time to select a special gift just for them. Whether you are attending a birthday party, baby shower, or wedding, a personalized gift shows that you care and that you feel the gift recipient is special. One of the easiest ways to present your recipient with a personalized gift is through personalization with simple embroidery. What is Embroidery? Embroidery is the handicraft of decorating fabric with designs stitched with thread or yarn. Embroidery can be done by hand or by a sewing machine. It can also include the addition of beads, quills, pearls, metals, and other objects. Embroidery can be done free-form or with the use of a pattern. The art of embroidery has been around for thousands of years or longer. People all over the world have been using it to personalize and decorate their garments and home decor for ages. Embroidery is simple to do and allows you the freedom to create some very beautiful works of art. Personalized Gift Ideas Using Embroidery Literally anything made of fabric or cloth can easily be embroidered on. You do not have to possess any special skills or "craftiness" to be able to personalize items using embroidery. All you really need is some colorful threads and a needle. If you choose to you can also purchase iron-on transfers of designs or you can free-hand your own design if you want to. Some of the easiest things to embroider on are clothing and towels. If you will be attending a baby shower, for example, embroidering the name or initials of the new baby onto a towel, blanket, or small onesie makes a perfect gift. It is simple to add blocks or a duck to the design for that extra added touch as well. One of the best gifts to receive for your wedding is something personalized with your name, your spouse's name, and the date of your wedding. This can be in the form of a set of guest towels, a simple wall hanging, or even a fabric picture frame to place a wedding photo in. Each of these ideas is easy to make and shows your thoughtfulness to the recipient. Children love to get gifts with their names on them. Remember back to when you were a child and got a gift of personalized pencils or another item. Personalized gifts are the ones you likely remember the most from your childhood even though they were likely not the most expensive gifts you were given by your loved ones. Fun items to personalize and give to a child include; backpacks, lunch bags, sleeping bags, clothing or even a special beach towel just for them. You can embroider their initials, their name, or even a small motif of one of their interests as well. The best thing about personalizing a gift with embroidery is that it is quick and simple to do. There are many great books on the subject available for purchase or from your local library. Craft books and magazines are generally loaded with ideas you can adapt for the occasion you will be attending. You can also find patterns online and in your local craft store for just about any occasion or design. And, you can find embroidery threads and yarns anywhere from a craft store to your local drugstore. Don't be afraid to experiment with embroidery and come up with your own unique designs. There are no mistakes in embroidery; it is as unique as you and your gift recipients are! If you make a mistake you can easily cut your threads and pull them out. This allows you to start your project again with a clean canvas. Personalizing your gifts with a bit of embroidery will make your recipient happy and at the same time show them that you went the extra mile to give a gift which is personal and special. Beginning Cross Stitch Embroidery Tips Cross stitch is one of the most popular forms of embroidery today. Cross stitch is embroidery which is stitched using small "X" stitches to form a design. Generally cross stitch is done on weaved fabric which has small, even holes, for your needle and thread to go through. This weaved cloth is called Aida cloth. Some cross stitch is done on silks and other fabrics as well. What fabric is used depends entirely on the stitcher themselves and the desired end results. Some cross stitch embroidery today is also done on plastic and paper canvases. These other mediums produce their own unique results. Plastic and paper are stiffer than traditional cross stitich fabrics and can be molded into interesting shapes and used for projects where fabric simply isn't practical. The threads used for cross stitch vary from cottons, wools, silks and metallic. The threads are usually very colorful and come in a complete myriad of colors and textures for any need. If you are new to cross stitch it is always a good idea to learn a bit about the craft before you begin on your first project. There are tons of books and websites which are dedicated solely to cross stitch techniques and instructions. Before you purchase your first project you should take the time to read about cross stitch and understand how it is done. This will save you a lot of frustration on your first project. The next thing you should do is to choose a simple cross stitch project to learn on. Find a project which is not too complicated, doesn't have too many colors, and which uses a larger weave Aida fabric. The combination of these three factors will ensure you the best results for your first cross stitch project. When you understand the basics of cross stitch then it is time to start on your first project. Start by reading all of the instructions which came with your first project kit. Read and understand how many threads to use and about any special markings on the pattern. When cross stitching you will take a traditional six strand embroidery thread and separate it into individual threads. You will then cross stitch using one to three of the threads at a time. Generally the larger the weave of your Aida cloth, the more strands of thread you will work with at a time. The best thing you can do for your end product is to separate each strand and then use the recommended number of threads together. Do not rewind them together, keep them separated. This helps for your thread to better cover the canvas and look flat and even. When you start your first stitch, do not knot your thread. You never want to knot thread on any stitchery project because it will make lumps on the finished project. Simply pull the thread through your fabric and leave a small tail of thread at the back. Hold on to the small tail at the back of your project and make your next few stitches so that they overlap that thread and secure it in place. This takes a bit of practice but makes your projects look great. When you are done stitching with one color and need to start a new one the process is simple. You should take your needle and gently pull your thread through the existing stitches on the back-side of your project. This will secure your thread. Once you have done this then clip the thread off close to your project surface but leave a bit extra, maybe a centimeter, so it does not come undone. To start with a new thread color simply re-thread your needle and start again just like before. The biggest problem with cross stitch is that it is simply addictive. As soon as you learn how to do it you start finding projects everywhere that you want to complete. This is a good thing in moderation but try to keep to buying projects only one or two ahead of the one you are currently working on. Cross stitch projects can take up a lot of time and you should make sure that you don't purchase projects which you will never actually complete. Best of luck with your new craft! Avoiding Hand and Wrist Injuries While Embroidering One of the only dangers to sewing and embroidery work is something called "repetitive stress injury" (RSI). Repetitive stress injury is believed to be caused by someone performing the same tasks over and over. This repetition causes strain on the muscles and tendons of the area where the tasks are completed by the body. This stress causes inflammation and discomfort which can only be relived by totally stopping the offending tasks until it heals. Repetitive movements, such as those hand and wrist movements associated with embroidery and hand sewing, can cause RSI. Generally, embroidery involves the simple movements of passing a thread through fabric from the front to the back, the back to the front and holding the fabric in place to do so. Both of these actions can cause and exasperate RSI in the hands and wrist. The good news is that RSI can be avoided if you take the time to make some simple changes to the way you embroider and sew. And, if you find yourself afflicted with RSI you should immediately stop your stitching and allow for your tendons and muscles to heal. The best thing you can do for the pain is to take an anti-inflammatory medication and rest the area. If the pain does not subside on its own, then you should seek the help of a medical professional. As you are embroidering you should take all of the precautions you can to avoid RSI. The first is to adapt how you handle your needle and project. When you are doing embroidery it is much easier on your non-dominant hand to use a frame to secure your work in place. You can use a floor frame or a simple lap frame. Both of these will allow you to work without having to sit and hold your fabric taught between your fingers. Using a very small weave fabric can add to RSI. Because the smaller weave requires your stitch placement to be much more precise, to get the needle in just the right place, you will likely find that you tense your muscles in your hand and fingers to make the stitches. When you use a higher count, or larger weave fabric, this issue is resolved naturally because the holes in the fabric are larger and you do not have to be as precise to get your stitches made. When you are stitching by hand it is important to limit the length of the threads you are using. When you use a long thread you have to constantly stretch out your arm to pull the thread through your fabric. By stitching with shorter threads you will not have to stretch out your arm as much. You will have to get new thread more often but you will save your arm and shoulder muscles and tendons a lot of unnecessary work in the process. When you stitch you should be resting your elbows on the arms of your chair or on a pillow. By not moving the upper parts of your arm with every stitch you can avoid shoulder and upper-arm repetitive stress injuries. After you have been embroidering or sewing for about a half-hour you should stop and move your arms and hands around. See if you feel any stress in your muscles and know that this will most likely be the area in which you would suffer from an RSI. Take the time to understand why you are seeing soreness and how to avoid it in the future. Once you have stopped for a quick break to move around, you should also work at closing your eyes and releasing any stress you might have. Simple relaxation techniques can do wonders for RSI. If you are suffering from RSI it does not have to mean the end of your stitching for good. You should take the time out to rest and recuperate. Then, when you are ready to start stitching again, you can modify your movements to avoid any flare-ups of RSI. If you then still experience pain it is time to consult your doctor. Add Beads to Your Cross Stitch Embroidery Projects One of the most interesting ways you can embellish your embroidery projects is by adding beads onto your stitches. Adding beads brings a three dimensional look to your needlework and adds a unique form of beauty and visual interest. With today's popularity of beadwork and jewelry making, there are some amazing beads available for you to purchase and add onto your embroidery projects. You can purchase beads at your local drugstore, craft stores, fabric stores and even bead specialty shops. Bead shops can be found both online and through mail-order catalogues. Beads today come in an amazing variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Beads can be found made of many different materials and in just about any shape imaginable. Embellishing your embroidery projects with beads is simple to do if you follow a few simple guidelines. Let's take a moment and look at three tips and tricks which can help you to create amazing works of art with embroidery and beads, without adding frustration to your project. Keep a Consistent Color Scheme When you are looking at adding beads as an embellishment, you want to decide how you want them to look on your finished project. If you are after a complementary addition, you might want to use beads which are similar in color to your stitches. This will give your work a very elegant feel and at the same time won't distract viewers away from your stitching. If you are looking to add some extra visual interest to your embroidery, you might want to add a more bold or opposite color to your work. An example would be adding red beads onto a Christmas tree you have embroidered. Another choice you have is to use clear thread, or thread which matches your fabric exactly, and add beads into the empty spaces on your work. This allows for the beads to be seen even if there is no embroidery under it; and the clear thread will allow your eye to see the beads and not the thread itself. Test Your Beads for Quality Before You Stitch Them On Not all beads are created equal. You want to use higher quality beads for your embroidery projects. You do not want the color to come off of them in the wash or through regular wear. To test your beads you can simply rub them together in your hands and see if they maintain their color without flaking. The best beads to use to embellish embroidery will be made of colored glass. Use the Right Needle Size While the size of your needle doesn't matter too much when you are making your embroidery projects, it does matter, a lot, when you are working with beads. If you will be using glass seed beads, or other small-hole beads, you want to make sure you use a small thin, long beading needle to affix your beads to your project. Beading needles work the best for two reasons. The first is that they will not break your beads when you thread them on. The second is that they are usually longer than embroidery needles and will allow you to string on beads all at one time if you want to. Adding bead embellishments to embroidery projects can really make your projects "pop" and look like they were done by a professional. You really are only limited by your imagination! The Latest Trend in Embroidery -- Embroidery on Paper Paper embroidery has been around for thousands of years; however it has found a new resurgence with the popularity of scrapbooking. While most of us think of embroidery as a thread or yarn embellishment on fabric, embroidery can also be done on paper. To embroider on paper you use the same threads as you would on fabric. By punching small holes in your paper you can easily pull your threads through to make wonderful designs. Embroidery on paper can allow you to be creative in many different ways. Paper embroidery can allow you to personalize your scrapbooks or other items in an entirely new and exciting way. You can make your own hand-sewn holiday cards with paper embroidery. You can also make a masterpiece to frame with paper embroidery as well. The options are literally only as endless as your imagination is. Paper embroidery can be a very easy and inexpensive hobby. All you will need to get started is a sheet of stiff or fibrous paper, some embroidery threads, a needle, and a pair of sharp scissors. You can find all of these items at your local craft or drugstore. If you choose to work with very stiff or thick papers, you will also need to purchase a paper piercing tool. Choosing Your Paper The best option for paper is to use a heavy cardstock. This will allow your design to be worked easily and also help to keep the shape of the paper you are using. To make pulling your threads through the paper a snap, you will want to pierce the paper in your design first, and then thread the various threads through the holes to make up your pattern. Choosing Your Needles The best needles for paper embroidery are those which are very fine and sharp. Because they will pierce your paper the best, they make the cleanest and most professional looking results. If you are having problems piercing the paper, then your needles are not sharp enough. Choosing Your Threads In the case of paper embroidery, the threads you choose have a very direct effect on your end results. Because paper is coarse, it will rub on your threads as you insert them through the paper. For this reason, you want to select threads which are smooth and not bulky. By choosing smooth threads they will not fray as you pull them through the paper, and your final design will look much crisper and cleaner. Metallic embroidery threads are now readily available almost everywhere. You can use the metallic threads to add some shimmer and elegance to your designs. Easy Patterns You can purchase books and individual patterns online if you need a guide for your embroidery projects. However, if you are a bit more adventurous, you can make your own patterns or use a rubber stamp design as your guide. Simply stamp your paper in a complementary color and start sticking it. Adding Embellishments One of the most fun things you can do with paper embroidery is to add beads onto your threads. With the popularity of jewelry making these days, beads can be found in a wide array of styles and colors. By adding some beads to your designs you can give them a three dimensional look. Finishing Off Your Projects When working with embroidery threads on paper, you do not ever want to knot your threads. If you do, it will leave bumps on your project. The best way to deal with thread ends on the back of your projects is to use a small amount of clear tape to tape them in place. This will make your thread ends flat with the back of the paper and will allow your finished project to be nice and smooth. If you are looking for a new craft, give paper embroidery a try. It is inexpensive to do, can be done with items available just about anywhere, and produces beautiful results in very little time. Starting Your Own Embroidery Business at Home As more and more people become disenchanted with working for disloyal American companies, many are finding themselves going out and starting their own small home-based businesses. This is great for the U.S. economy, and it is also wonderful if you are one of the people wanting to start your own business! There is no better time than starting your own business than right now. One of the most popular new businesses is custom embroidery services. Thanks to the technology of today, doing custom embroidery no longer requires very expensive machinery and can be done with simply a decent personal computer and a sewing machine with embroidery capability. Your customer base for your designs is literally limited only by your own imagination and marketing ability. Everyone from dog owners to crafters are interested in having items which reflect their interests and individuality. Machine embroidery can be done on most fabrics and is the best way to customize your clothing and decorative items. You can purchase designs which are already made and you can also design your own through the latest in digitizing software. Starting your own custom embroidery business is easy if you follow a few standard small business guidelines. Here are just a few of them to consider: The Business Plan No matter what business you decide to start, you 100% have to have a solid business plan. There is no way possible to have a successful business venture without one. The best way to develop your business plan is to think about all of the variables which go into your unique business, and what your ultimate short-term and long-term goals are for the business. With all of this information, you can sit down and formulate a business plan without it taking you a lot of valuable time. Licensing and Regulations Depending on the city, county, and possibly state you live in, you may have to get a business license to have a legal home-based embroidery business. The way to determine what the local rules and regulations are is to call up your local city and county government offices and ask them what you need to do. If you live in a state with sales tax, you should call up your state Controller's Office and ask about obtaining a seller's permit. You will most likely find that most government offices are supportive and helpful in getting you situated in a place where your business is legal. Financial Records The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep good business records from day one of your business. Start with the fees to get a business license, and start recording every single business expense that you have. By doing this as you go you will save both yourself and your tax preparer a ton of headaches come tax time. Setting Your Prices The number one mistake many home-based sewing businesses make is to charge too little for their services. You need to make a living, and you need to be pricing your items and services accordingly. Whatever you do, do not sell yourself short! Ask a going rate for your items and services and expect that people will pay you what your time and product is worth. This allows you to work smarter and not harder! Marketing Marketing is simply getting the word out and letting others know your business exists. You can market online, through a press release sent to your local newspaper, flyers, brochures, craft fair booths, etc: Anywhere you come into contact with potential customers you can market your items and services. You can even do simple things like always carry business cards, available these days very inexpensively online, and hand them out to everyone you meet as you go through your days. As you can see there are a lot of things for you to consider when you are thinking about starting a home-based custom embroidery business. However, your business can be very successful and profitable if you take the time to make it so! Embroidery Digitizing Basics Machine embroidery has been around for many years. However, all of the machine embroidery of the past was done by very large and expensive machines housed within specialty businesses. In the past if you were a business and wanted your logos sewn onto baseball hats or other promotional items, then you went to a custom embroidery business and they did it for you. Thanks to the declining costs of computers and technology advances, home sewers now have the capability of doing custom machine embroidery in their own homes. The art of creating custom machine embroidery is called embroidery digitizing. Embroidery digitizing involves using a personal computer, an embroidery sewing machine, and a special digitizing software application. Using digitizing software install on your personal computer, you can transfer a design into one which can be embroidered. However, this is not a simple "click-of-the-mouse" conversion; it is done by hand and takes some time and skills. To digitize a design you need to dissect the design into sections and layers and design how each area will look with another. Once you have your basic design digitized, you then have to spend time with the special software tools tweaking out the design so that it will look good once your embroidery machine embroiders it. Because thread embroidery designs are three dimensional not all designs will look good once they have been digitized. The software is very helpful in this area and in showing you which areas to change. To be successful with embroidery digitizing software you must be an experienced sewer and knowledgeable of the various types of fabrics on the market. Fabric moves differently when sewn and you will have to account for this in your designs. Embroidery digitizing software requires you to have a fairly powerful personal computer. You will need one with a lot of system memory, a strong processor, a USB port, and a lot of free disk space. The better the personal computer you use, the easier it will be for you to design your embroidery projects and the easier it will be for your computer to transfer them. When you are looking to purchase digitizing software there are a few things you should be looking for. The first is that the software itself should be easy to install and use. You should be able to digitize on your computer screen by being able to control scaling, match components to the onscreen grids, zoom in and zoom out, and pan from one area of a design to another. Many digitizers today can easily allow you to expand or shrink your designs and they will automatically adjust your stitch count and density to meet the new design size. This is very important and can save you a lot of time. Another important thing you want to have in your digitizing software is the ability to see the true thread colors both on your computer monitor and on your color printer. This allows you to make sure you use just the right colors in your designs and that the embroidered design meets any logo requirements as well. As you can see, computer digitized embroidery is not a simple process. However, once you learn the basics it can be a very satisfying craft or business venture for you. You will be truly amazed at your results after learning the software and creating your first few designs. Designing Your Own Cross Stitch Embroidery Patterns As you learn to cross stitch embroider with more skill and precision, you often find that you would like to cross stitch something unique or something which you cannot find a pattern for. When faced with this challenge, you have one of two choices -- you can give up or your can make your own pattern! Making your own pattern is not that hard and can provide you with an amazing sense of accomplishment once you have finished cross stitching your design. Designing your own cross stitch pattern will allow you the freedom to create just about any design you want. It will also allow you to be able to cross stitch your favorite photos and other memorabilia. Supplies You Will Need To design your own cross stitch pattern you will need to gather up the following items: graph paper, a sharp pencil, a good eraser, colored pencils and possibly a floss color chart from your favorite embroidery thread maker. You can find good pencils and erasers in the art supply store or even in the office supply section of your local drugstore. You want to use a very sharp pencil and a good eraser which will clearly remove any pencil marks and not smear them on the paper. The gummy form of erasers used by drafts people are perfect for this. Graph paper can also be found in the same places, or you can print it out from your computer using Excel or an Internet website. You will want your graph paper to have at least eight squares per inch. Once you have drawn your design then you will want to shade it in using your colored pencils and thread color guide. This will allow you to have a list of thread colors to purchase from your craft store to stitch your design. The easiest way to deal with the size of your final design is to use graph paper which as the same number of squares in it that your cross stitch fabric does. If you are using 16 count fabrics, then if you design on graph paper with 16 squares per inch, your design and your final stitched project will be the exact same size. It is very, very important to keep the final size of your project in mind while you do your designing. Making Your Design To make your first cross stitch chart you will want to start by drawing your design and, for the most part, ignoring the lines of the graph paper. Once your design is complete then you will need to take the time to make your design able to be converted to cross stitch work. To do this, you will work to square off round edges and mark the areas where you will need to do partial stitching and all of your over-stitching for finalizing your project. If you would like your design to have a three dimensional look to it you will want to add some simple shading. Do this by imagining a light-source and where the shadows on the page would be if the light source was shining on your design. This takes some time to master, but it can really help your designs to look more realistic. Once your shading is complete, then you can color in your design with your colored pencils. This will allow you to "see" your final design and decide exactly which colors you want to use. This is where your thread guide comes in; you will use it to match up to your design and create a list of threads to purchase for your project. Designing your own cross stitch embroidery patterns can be a really rewarding thing to do. It is not simple, and it takes a bit of time to master, but it allows you to be able to stitch anything you can imagine. You can create just the right look on paper and then make it come to life on fabric. The only limitation is that of your mind. Using Embroidery to Enhance Your Scrapbook Pages Do you know that you can easily stitch embroidery and other similar threads onto paper? Yes, you absolutely can! Adding embroidery to your paper crafts and scrapbooking pages gives them a new dimension and unique look. Embroidering on your scrapbook pages also allows you to easily add elements to your pages while you are adding the stitchery itself. You can embroider on paper both by hand and with your sewing machine. While each technique is different, they are both fairly easy to learn to do well. Let's look at each method: Hand Sewing and Embroidery on Paper To stitch on paper you will need some heavy weight paper, a pin to make holes in the paper, a needle, threads, a design to stitch, and scissors. Using a pencil lightly draw your chosen design on a piece of cardstock. You can use other forms of paper but you need to work with heavier papers and lighter papers tend to tear and become misshapen during sewing. If you do not want to draw on your project itself, you can draw your design on a piece of tracing paper and then tape it onto your project to use as a guide while you punch your holes. If you are looking for a design to use, you can find them everywhere. You can look online, in books, use your rubber stamps and even use your children's color book pages. The one thing that is important about your design is that you keep it fairly simple. Do not try to stitch a complicated design until you have some experience embroidering on paper. Place your paper on your mouse pad or some other fabric item with some "give" to it. Start at one side of your design and work your way around it punching holes about every 1/8th of an inch with your pin. Once you have your holes then you need to erase any pencil marks still on your paper. Now comes the fun part -- you get to stitch your design. Stitch your design using whatever stitch and colors you want to use. When you are finished you can fill in areas by using colored pencils or markers. Machine Sewing and Embroidery on Paper If you can sew on fabric with your sewing machine, then you can sew on paper. The techniques are basically the same with a couple important adjustments. Before you start to stitch on your paper with your sewing machine you will need to ensure that your bobbin contains enough thread to complete your design. Why? Because, if your bobbin runs out of thread then your project will have holes in it without threads going through them. Generally when you machine sew you knot the thread ends. On paper you will want to use a dab of glue or a small amount of clear tape to adhere your threads on the back of your work. Sewing and embroidering on paper is a really fun and easy way to add another dimension to your paper craft projects. You can use any type of paper and threads or fibers to get just the look that you want. You can sew papers together or simply embroider to embellish. The options are only as limited as your own imagination is.
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