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Archive for the ‘Sewing’ Category


I was looking for a simple way to change the look of my dining room seasonally, beyond just changing the table centerpiece. The solution? Chair slips.

These photos show some of the slips that I have made, and they are super simple to do.

1) Purchase several yards (depending on the number of chairs to cover) of 54″-60″ sheer decorative fabric. Check the cut edge of the fabric before purchasing to be sure that it does not fray (unless you want to put in the effort of narrow hemming each slip). The holiday “craft fabrics” all seem to work well.

2) With the fabric folded as it comes from the bolt, cut lengths through both layers from the selvages to the fold. The width of the lengths should be at least 1″ wider than the width of the chair back.

3) Using nylon thread, and keeping the fabric folded with right sides together, stitch from the fold down, with a 1/4″ seam allowance. The length of the seam should be less than the height of the chair back

4) Turn the slip right-side-to, and voila! A chair slip that will change the look of the entire room.

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I’ve got quite a bit of shopping around for dress crystals (flat backs), and have found that Dreamtime Creations seems to have the best prices, even after a fairly large price hike (which they gave more than fair warning about) in the spring of 2011. Most of what I learned about stoning I found in the Ballroom section of Dance Forums, which is a great resource for all things ballroom.

The first question was Swarovski or Preciosa? Preciosa is less expensive, but most people agree that they don’t sparkle as much as Swarovski. Some claim that one is sparklier up close, and the other is sparklier from a distance. Well, as the blog title implies, I went the cheaper route with Preciosa.

You will also want regular flatbacks that you attach with glue, and not the hotfix ones. As for glue, you have several options. The two main ones are E-6000 and Gem-Tac. The E-6000 was recommended to me by a professional dancer, & sure enough it has amazing holding power. The only problem is that I found it hard to work with. It makes long threads of glue when you pull away the toothpick you are applying it with, and there really isn’t any way to undo mistakes. I’ve had better luck with Gem-Tac, which is basically a white craft glue. The problem with Gem-Tack is that it dries quickly, so you have do the stoning fairly quickly as well.

To get prepared, you will need:

– the flatback stones (size 20ss and/or 16ss seem to be the most popular for stoning dresses according to people on Dance Forums)

– Gem-Tac

– a chopstick (although I suppose a pencil would do)

– a paper plate or index card as a “glue palette”

– a couple of toothpicks

– poster adhesive.

Poster adhesive?! Yes – I use Duck Brand Poster Putty shown here, but you can also use Blu-Tack or any other similar product.

If you put a small blob of the putty on the end of a chopstick, it is exactly tacky enough to pick up a small rhinestone and place it where you want it, but not so tacky that you can’t get the stone off. You may need to use a clean toothpick to push it off once you go to place the stone however.

1) Put a small blob of glue onto your paper palette. Don’t squeeze out too much until you know how quickly you’ll be working, because Gem-Tac dries quickly

2) Use a toothpick to put several dots of glue where you plan to put the stones. Again, do fewer dots until you have an idea of how quickly you can work since the glue dries quickly.

3) Use the chopstick with the putty to pick up the stones, and place them on each glue dot, gently pushing off with a clean toothpick if necessary. Keep some additional clean toothpicks around in case your glue dot was too big and you need to clean up the glue that oozes out from behind the stone. This whole process seems to be a balancing act of having enough glue to hold the stone tight without having too much and making a mess

4) After the glue has set a little, 3-5 minutes. gently pat the stones down (without moving them!) to ensure good adhesion.

A couple of things I discovered through trial and error:

– Always keep some stones in reserve for repairs – no matter how well you glue the stones on, a bunch are bound to fall off anyway

– A gross (144) of stones is a remarkably small amount – even though it sounds like a lot,  it’s maybe a scant teaspoon

– It’s better to have the stones clustered together than sprinkled far and wide across the dress – they’ll show up more

– I am completely incapable of getting the darned things on completely evenly, so I keep reciting my  mother’s favorite phrase, which was “It will never show on a galloping horse”.

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I am doing this from memory, so hopefully I will get it right…

We will make a pattern for one 1/2 of the circle

1) Get 3.5 yards of 60″ muslin.

2) Find the center on the long side

3) Fold the piece in 1/2 so that you have a square. We will call the “1st Fold”

4) Fold the top edge diagonally down to the “1st Fold” forming a triangle

5) The “1st Fold” forming the left side of the triangle is 60 inches long

6) Use a ruler and permanent marking pen to mark 60″ from the folded point at the top of the triangle to many points across the widest part of the triangle

7) Cut the excess fabric off in an arc connecting the dots

8) Now we need to calculate how much to cut out from the top of the triangle. These instructions assume that you are cutting a skirt for a drop waisted dress. Measure your hips loosely – so if they are actually 39″, the measurement should be around 40″. If you have already cut the bodice of the dress and fitted it (assuming that it has points at the bottom), measure across the bodice at the top of the points and double the number. Now go to a radius calculator, like http://www.datedial.com/datCircle_Solver.asp. Enter the waist size into the “Circumference” field, and click the “Solve others” button. The “Radius” number is the one we’re looking for. Measure from the top of the triangle down to several places below the “radius” distance and mark it with a permanent marker. This means that if the length of the triangle is 60″, and your waist is 40″, then the radius is 6.4″ and the length of the skirt will be 60 – 6.4 = 53.6″ (which is pretty long)

9) Cut in an arc along the dots

When you open the muslin template you will have a perfect 1/2 circle to use as your pattern for cutting the circle skirt. You may wish to have a slightly narrower skirt (as I do), and trim the “sides” to reduce the hem width a bit. This will make more of a cone shape than a full circle.

NOTE: For a dancesport gown I found that a full circle skirt is too full, and just trimming the sides to narrow it didn’t work as well as I would have liked, so I made these modifications.

– Measure the hip circumference (40″ in the example above) and multiple by 3 for 120″. This will now be the circumference of the inner circle.

– The radius of this circle is 19.1. The length of the skirt will now be 60 – 19.1 = 40.9

– Once the pattern is cut, your 1/2 circle pattern will actually be 120/2 = 60. Since we only need 40/2=20, I just folded back the fabric to leave me with that measurement. The only reason for not cutting it is so I can reuse this pattern with different waist/hip measurements.

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While JoAnn Fabric is great for street wear projects, when it comes to dance wear their fabric selection is limited. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to need JoAnn’s for all of your notions, but unless you live near NYC you’ll need to go online for fabric.

So when the envelopes full of swatches started to pile up, I finally got organized. Fortunately most of the New York stores send their swatches stapled to a sheet of letterhead (including Spandex House, my favorite!), and for those that don’t you can just staple the samples to a piece of paper with the store’s contact information. Then I bought some top-load poly sheet protectors from Walmart, slipped each page into one, and put them together into a loose-leaf binder that I already had. I was also able to put my Swarovski & Preciosa crystal sample sheets from Dreamtime Creations (another favorite) into the book.

It’s great being able to find everything in one place!

By the way, as long as I mentioned the Swarovski & Preciosa crystals, I really suggest buying some sample pages if you plan to do a lot of stoning. The charts are clear so that you can see what the color will really look like with your fabric behind it, and the charts have size samples as well. Soooo much better than spending a lot of money on stones that looked great on your computer screen and being disapointed when they finally arrive.

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I had a bunch of old jeans that were falling apart at the seams (actually between the seams), but they were my favorites and new ones cost too bloody much! So I decided to patch them up with appliques.

Not sure how you’re supposed to do it,, but here’s how I do it (these are the directions I wrote up years ago for the “garden” jeans)

You’ll need “wonder-under” (that may be “under-wonder”, I can’t remember). You can buy it in the fabric section of Wal-Mart, or at Jo-Ann Fabrics. Don’t let them sell you any other brand – they’re all too thick. Wonder-under has a glue material on one side & a paper backing.

You’ll need fabric for the applique itself – don’t go any heavier than a regular cotton or cotton blend or it will be too stiff

You’ll need some background fabric (same type as above) – it doesn’t really end up showing, but since I was putting mine on blue-jeans, I used a plain blue fabric

1) cut a piece of applique fabric out that’s large enough for your pattern

2) iron the sticky side of the wonder-under to the BACK (wrong side) of the fabric.

3) Draw or transfer your pattern onto the paper side of the wonder-under that is stuck to the back of your fabric. Remember that the pattern needs to be a mirror image of what you finally expect to see.

4) Cut out the fabric following the pattern lines on the wonder-under.

5) Cut a piece of background fabric big enough to put your applique on, & big enough to easily move through your sewing machine

6) peel the paper off of your applique piece

7) iron your applique piece onto the background fabric

NOTE: you can build up all of your applique onto the background fabric; e.g. iron on 5 white petals and 1 yellow center to make a daisy

8) Satin-stitch around all of the applique on your background fabric with the sewing machine (satin-stitching is zig-zag stitching that’s really close together)

NOTE: be sure to sew all raw edges, because the wonder-under won’t hold up in the washing machine by itself

9) cut a piece of wonder under the size of your background fabric

10) iron the wonder-under to the back of the background fabric

NOTE: be careful that the wonder-under is turned with the glue side to the fabric – I had it upside down once, & made a mess of my iron

11) cut out your applique, carefully trimming away the background fabric without cutting through the satin stitching

12) peel the wonder-under paper off of the back of your applique, & iron the applique to a pair of jeans, a purse, or whatever

13) hand stitch the thing down (or by machine if the item will fit in – jean legs don’t fit well into the sewing machine). If sewing by hand, use hand-quilting thread so it doesn’t tangle – plus it holds up better in the long run

NOTE: to make the stems on the flower bouquet, I just glued the ribbon down with craft glue and then hand stitched it

The dog appliques are done by reducing a photograph down to just a few blocks of color, then printing it and using each of the color blocks as a pattern to trace to the back of the under wonder

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