Sewing Green on a Rainy Day – Stuff Your Own Pillow, Using Scraps

Until recently, I have always felt great satisfaction after a sewing project is complete and I get to scrunch all the loose threads and cuttings into a tight ball and throw them away. I would throw away the garbage and be left only with my creation.

That is until I read an article online about using even the tiniest of scraps of fabric and thread cuttings to stuff a pillow. So from that point onwards I started saving every inch of discarded fabric and every tiny snip of thread. When I teach sewing I encourage all my students to save every piece of fiber too. Not only does this save my floor (and vacuum cleaner) from all the fluff that typically accumulates after each lesson, but it also helps speed the process of collecting enough stuffing for a pillow. It takes Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to the next level!

It’s important to note that none of the fabric collected was dirty or smelly in any way. They were merely too small to sew into much else.

After a good few months of collecting, I finally had enough fabric to stuff a pillow. So I made a pillow form first. Then I made the pillow cover. It’s important to remember that the ‘stuffing’ will consist of different colored fabric, so make a pillow form to ensure that no dark colored fabrics show through.

Instructions below:

First make a pillow form. I always make the pillow form an inch or two larger than your desired finished pillow form. Cut two square pieces of plain fabric. Mine were 22 inches square each. Sew them together round all four edges, leaving a small opening. Snip the corners diagonally. Zig-zag round all the edges.

My kids did the pinning for me!

Turn the pillow form right side out and STUFF IT!

Once it is stuffed to your satisfaction, slip stitch the opening closed. This will be a heavy pillow, so make the stitches strong.

When the pillow form is complete. Start working on your pillow cover. Choose strong fabric as this pillow will be nice and heavy. It’s good for people who like a firm pillow. Could also be used as a floor pillow, so fabric needs to be able to withstand lots of abuse.
For instructions for sewing a pillow, click here.

Congrats, your finished pillow was free, green and is 100% unique!!!

Bernina Artista 730 – Please Check Lower Thread – Error Message

How to solve the Bernina Artista 730 – Please Check Lower Thread – Message

I love my Bernina Artista 730. However, for a while I was getting the error message “Please check lower thread. Please clean bobbin area of lint or stray thread. If bobbin is empty, please rewind bobbin.” I would spend the longest time cleaning it out till it looked so sparkly clean I was sure there was no more lint or stray threads. But the problem would still persist and my embroidery design would stop and I would constantly have to clean and restart it. It turns out I was cleaning the wrong area.

I have found the cause of the problem and would love to share it with you. There is a bobbin sensor that is super sensitive. Please see the picture above. The sensor/lens can be seen just above the word ‘Caution’ on the door to the bobbin compartment. Even the smallest bit of lint or fluff can be enough to cause this particular error message. Clean this area regularly with a tiny, soft brush and your design will stitch out just fine with minimal interruptions!!!

Happy stitching!!!

Pesach is (almost) here


Somehow between getting ready for Pesach and starting a new job, I have managed to find time to sew our first Matzah cover. It’s aqua and brown, linen with die vut velvet. It’s modern and elegant at the same time. A while before I started sewing I bought a brown table cloth and aqua chargers, to entice me to make a matching matzah cover. I had had my eye on those aqua chargers from Michaels for a while and I regretted not buying them the first time I saw them. So when they stocked them a second time, I didn’t hesitate.

My plans for next year include a set of matching pesach pillows for all guests as well. Though I’m sure by then I’m going to want to try out some new colors also.

I put the Shalom wall hanging up for the pictures as it is in the same color scheme. It is also a unique item and is for sale. It can be seen on my website .

Special Time With My Children

A while ago I started to give each child ‘Special Time’ with Mummy. Each night one child gets to stay up with me for an extra 10 minute after the others have gone to bed. They can choose a book, a game, whatever they want to do for 10 minutes, where it’s just me and him/her. They value this special time more than anything else I could ever give them.

children sewing

However, with my new job meaning I get home later and put the kids to bed later, it’s hard to find the energy (either me or them) to stay up later. So I started a weekly sewing lesson with them instead. I was shocked to see how well they picked up the skills needed. I started by allowing them to pick any fabric from my stash to make their own pillow. Well not quite any fabric as I limited them to fabrics that don’t stretch or slip. My 6 year old son chose two different blue fabrics with boats on. My 5 year old daughter chose two beautiful pink brocades. In fact they were so nice I almost said she couldn’t have them!!!

children sewing

They pinned, tacked and sewed concealed zippers along the bottom edge. Then they pinned, tacked and sewed the remaining three sides. It took a while. One week they would pin. The next week they would tack and the last week they would sew the seam on the machine. I helped them guide the fabric but they controlled the pedal and stopped, started and pivoted themselves.

children sewing

I was amazed at how nicely the finished pillows came out. Probably because they didn’t take short cuts, they were just so happy to spend time with me doing something creative together that they did everything I asked and took directions really well.

children sewing

See them here holding their prized creations just in time for the Pesach (Passover) Seder where it is customary to lean like royalty. They will indeed feel special with their very own unique pillows.

children sewing

They have already gone through my stash looking for more fabrics to call their own. I can’t wait to see what we make next …

Altering Store Bought Clothes

The Trials of Clothes Shopping

Went shopping today for a smart business suit and had a TERRIBLE time of it! It appears that the size I need for a skirt, is not the same as the size I need for the jacket. Of course mixing sizes on a skirt suit is not accepted. So I bought a less than perfect suit. This is hard for me to accept because, for half the price, I would be able to make a made-to-measure, perfectly fitted suit, in the exact style I want.

But who has time for sewing when they work two jobs and run a busy household with 3 little kids? So I hit the sales instead.

My tips for buying reduced price clothes and then altering them:

1. Often times once you open up the garment and poke around inside, you see all the shoddy workmanship from the factory, complete with all the short cuts they’ve taken. It can start to get messy and fray when you alter these seams. Therefore make sure you need to open as few seams as possible.
2. When looking to buy clothes, I try to make sure that the skirt fits perfectly and doesn’t need alterations (except for maybe the hem – because that’s easy). If I have to start taking it in at the waist, it’s not worth my time. As I would have to take the waist band off and practically remake the entire skirt.
3. I try to make sure that the jacket fits me on the shoulders – again changing the shoulder shape is a hassle and once cut, can’t be undone!
4. Can you cheat by moving the buttons over? It might skim an inch off.
5. Shortening sleeves to the right length, can help them hang better and look less bulky. I also like to make the sleeves narrower, it makes a huge difference visually and isn’t hard to do.

And finally, my best tip for making a store bought jacket fit better:

6. Take the back seams in. It is super simple to do. Open up the lining at the bottom and adjust the center back and side back seams. Do the same for the lining, then hand-sew the lining to the jacket hem. A well fitted back flatters every figure.

Happy shopping!

Starting a Sewing Business


First Year in Business – Check

It’s been an amazing journey so far and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings. Sew Sabina’s first year in business has been a roller coaster of activity. The learning curve has been steep! Each step of the way required learning something new and that is what makes it all the more exciting for me. After working for someone else for so long, it’s been a pleasure to start my own business and be in control. It’s definitely worth all the work.

A brief summary of the steps I went through to start my sewing business:
• Study Business Types. From learning what an LLC is to how to set one up – that was only the first step. I first decided on a business name and made sure that it was available for the company and for the website.
• Banking. Next came choosing a bank and opening a business bank account. This, although a small task, felt really good, once achieved. I love that my bankers recognize me when I walk through the door.
• Web Hosting . Every company now must have a web presence. Research was time consuming but well worth it. I recommend definitely choosing a host that has fantastic support.
• Programming. Programming my website was the most fun thing I’ve done this year. I decided to go the long route and program it from scratch myself so that I would have complete control over it. I do not want to have to pay anyone else to make changes. I also didn’t want be limited to someone else’s template. To do this, I learnt CSS and PHP. I’m very happy with this decision.
• Logistics. I’ve had to work out pricing, record keeping, where to purchase supplies.
• Selling. Throughout all this I signed up for boutiques and shows to sell my handmade gifts at. It’s important to make time to go out and SELL your products. Don’t just wait for customers to come to you. After I signed up for them I started worrying that I wouldn’t have enough time to sew what I needed.
• Production. I had to knuckled down for a few weeks and I got my supply up. Sew Sew Sew.
• Data Entry. Each item I make is unique, so I have been taking pictures and entering the products in my database. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to look through my online shop and seeing all the things I have made and sold. I also make sure to keep records of all customers as most of my sales are to returning customers.

First Year Business Records

The binder in the picture above contains records of my first year in business. I hope 2013 will bring multiple binders!!!

I’d love to hear from you how you started your company, how you felt, hurdles you had to pass.

Visualizing the Finished Product

How do I deal with customers who cannot visualize the finished item?

tassled challah cover

I find that many of my customers cannot visualize the finished item as I can. I use my embroidery software to print an image of the finished embroidery. I can even put a picture of the fabric behind the embroidery image. I might show them something similar, if possible. But often times the customer says ‘you’re the artist, I’ll trust you’.

tassled challah cover

This week I had made this green challah cover top (see picture directly above) that I felt would have been perfect for a particular customer to gift. She didn’t buy it, she instead chose a different, also lovely challah cover for the gift. I decided that I should finish the green challah cover because the finished item would look so drastically different from the version I currently showed that there must be many people who cannot visualize the ‘grand finale’.

Some of my challah covers that are finished and ready to ship would just not look good with personalization embroidery, perhaps it isn’t necessary, or the stitches wouldn’t show up. This one, I lined and finished because it looks fantastic finished!!! The finished item can be seen here

Embroidered Challah Cover from Doodle to Reality

Recently I had the opportunity to do one of my most fun challah covers I’ve ever made. I was contacted by a customer asking if I can embroider an image. She sent me a picture featuring Shabbat candles, challot, wine, grapes and the words ‘Shabbat Kodesh’. This was a hand drawn image, fuzzy lines n’ all. The image I was given was not the clearest image – it was drawn on a piece of kitchen papertowel. I was immediately intrigued. Not having a challah cover, one artistic young lady drew a makeshift challah cover on a papertowel and that is what they used. The customer who contacted me wanted to surprise her friend with an actual challah cover featuring her design.

Hand drawn design to embroider

Always up for a challenge I agreed to make this challah cover, knowing that this large embroidery design would need to be rehooped several times. This is due to my home embroidery machine not having as wide an embroidery surface as the industrial machines do.

So how did we come to the final product?

Firstly we talked about fabric textures, colors, patterns etc. Then I emailed the customer a few pictures of fabrics for her to choose from.

Next stage is for me to digitize the design. As you can see from the original drawing, this is a line drawing that would look rather empty if it were embroidered straight. Some of the components needed to be filled in with fill stitches. To fill all parts in however, would, I felt cluter the design and detract from the beauty of the original line drawing. Not to mention, I also had to take into account the fabric weight and ensure that the correct stitch density is achieved.

We concluded that the words in the center should be filled in with the recipients favorite color (orange) and the rest of the design should keep the integrity of the original drawing. I edited the design to fill in the stitches on the writing as well as touching up other points here and there. When digitizing was complete I sent the customer a jpg of how the finished design would stitch out.

Having approved the design and fabric we were ready to choose colors. I picked colors that I thought would work well with the fabrics and with each other. My first choice of colors needed to be modified a bit but once we decided on the right shade of orange, we were ready to go.

Embroidery thread colors

I split the design up into individual files because it was too large to fit in even my largest embroidery hoop. I printed each design and used the paper print out as a template to ensure I got the positioning correct on the actual fabric.

Once the embroidery was finished, we had to choose whether or not the challah cover needed a border. We chose an orange border as it is the recipients favorite color and matches the embroidery thread. I lined it with a matching orange satin. Satin for a touch of luxury and orange to personalize it further.

Finished Custom Embroidered Challah Cover from Drawing

Here is the finished product, you can see it in the sold section of my site: Finished Custom Challah Cover

I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Hello world!

Hello World! Sew Sabina has now entered the ranks of the blogger. Stay tuned for blogs, images and discussions regarding sewing, embroidery, starting a business and much more.