Isn’t it supposed to be “summer”?

| Comments

There has only been ONE good thing about the Portland weather this past week, and that’s that there’s a lot of stuff marked off my to-do list. I’ve got to get lots done before my family is here for a week, so I don’t anticipate being able to post any new tutorials.

Thanks for the love on the jean hemming! I had no idea so many people hadn’t heard of this technique before. I mean, I hadn’t either when I first started doing alterations, but sometimes I forget that I know something that someone else might not. That sounds dumb, and it kind of is, but it’s true. I had no idea some people didn’t even know how to thread a needle when I first start teaching classes. You aren’t born knowing how to do that? Really? I figured babies could eat, sleep, poop and sew. Sometimes it just doesn’t occur to me, probably because I’ve always worked around people who have been sewing for years and years. I’m used to being taught, not being the one showing how it’s done.

But I want to keep the tutorials coming. I want you to be able to come here and see the techniques and tricks I’ve learned along the way. I want you to be able to learn things that have taken me years to figure out, and apply them to your projects. I want you to sew and love your finished project, because it works. If you’re making a dress, I want it to fit you the way you pictured it, and not be a huge sack of disappointment. If you are about to cut out a pattern and sew it, I want you feel confident that you can make sure it will fit before you even make it.

I plan on covering lots of things here, and it’s probably going to take quite a while. But I want you to know that I’m always happy to help you out. If you’re frustrated with a project, and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, email me or come into the shop. Or, if you’re working on something and you’re sure there’s a better faster way to do it, there probably is. Just ask, and I’ll share the sewing knowledge I have with you!

On that note, I’ll leave you with happy pictures from last weekend. I went to a corgi party at the park, and guess what? It was RIDICULOUS. In a cute-short-slobbering-and-loud-barking kind of way.

How to Sew: Tricky Hems

| Comments

At one point or another, we’ve all needed one basic thing- to have our jeans hemmed. I’ve walked on the back of countless pairs of mine, so that it looks like something took a huge bite off of the back of my pant leg. It’s annoying to say the least, but cutting off your jeans and turning them under gives them the “oh-look-I’m-vertically-challenged-and-my-mom-hemmed-these” look. To fix that, you do what’s called a “tricky hem”, where you put the original fancy hem back on your jeans.

I did a few hundred of this type of jean hem in my last job doing alterations. One of the keys to making sure your hems will be long (or short) enough is to wear the right shoes with them and take a look at the fit. If you want to wear a pair of jeans with both flats and heels, too bad. They’re either going to be long or short, so buy a second pair. Second, don’t pull them down so that they’re straight on your legs if they’re really tight and will gather behind your knees when you walk. Instead, put them on and walk around or sit down in them so you’ll have them hemmed where they’ll actually sit when you wear them out.

To mark jeans (or other pants):

Have the person who is begging and pleading with you to have their jeans hemmed put them on and and stand facing away from you. It’s important that they don’t look down at you to see what you’re doing or they won’t be marked correctly. Mark each pant leg at the 12″ mark on a ruler. You can use chalk if you’d like, but if you use pins, be sure to put them in parallel to the floor. Next, mark the hem on one leg, making it about a 1/4″ off the floor, or shorter if they like.

Tell them to take off their pants:

Say it in a deep creepy voice- it’ll make the whole experience much more memorable.

Line up the pant legs:

Lay the legs of your jeans flat, lining up the inseams. This is where the 12″ marks come into play. When you line up your pins (or chalk marks), you will be able to see if your legs are uneven by seeing the difference between the two original hemlines. If they are different, that’s fine- just don’t let it be more than 1″. If it is more than 1″, I would try them on again and double-check to make sure your markings are correct. If you’re satisfied with how everything lines up, make a line perpendicular to the outer seam where you want your finished hem length to be.

Cutting the hems:

This is where it might start to get scary. Yes, you actually cut off the old hems, exactly where you want your new hem to be. I know it sounds crazy, but I promise it works.

Prepping old hems:

To do this, use a seam gauge to measure how wide the old hem was. You will then use this measurement to cut a seam allowance just above the old hem’s stitching. This will make more sense when you start sewing.

Pin the hems:

Line up the two cut edges you have made and pin them together. Make sure that you have the right hem on the right leg! You can check this by comparing the inseams to see if the stitching goes the same way.

Sew the hems:

First, before you even begin sewing, you’re going to want to put in a VERY strong needle. I recommend using a leather needle, and nothing smaller than a 14, because at a few points you’ll be going thru at least 6 layers of denim. It’s okay to go very slowly here and even turn your hand wheel to help your needle go thru everything. You’ll want to stitch barely to the right of the old hem’s stitching (with a long basting stitch). This way it will be almost seamless when you finish. After these are sewn and pressed, the old hem will flip down and be exactly where you wanted the hem of your jeans to lay.

These hems are going to look so good, no one will even think about how short you are! Yaaaaaaay!

Finish the edges:Now I’m lucky enough to own an ancient serger that can get the job done and put up with denim like a pro. Thanks, Craigslist! If you don’t, and can’t finish your edges with a nifty second machine, use whatever you have. A zigzag stitch, binding tape, or don’t do anything if you don’t care.

Turn, iron, and glue:

For you, this step may or may not be interrupted with an annoying smacking sound from the little dog behind you. You’ll realize that he’s trying to chew his bone without actually holding on it, because he’s being incredibly lazy.


I glue the edges down with something called “Stitch-Witchery”. You can find it at Modern Domestic with the rest of the notions, and it’s pretty handy stuff. Put it on the underside of your hem and iron it down. The more steam and heat you use, the better it will stick.

You’re done! Eat a cookie!

If everything went according to plan, your hems should look like this. No one will be able to tell they’ve been done! YOU’RE FREAKING MAGIC NOW.

How to Make: Window Screens

| Comments

When Rob and I moved into our apartment, we discovered something that seemed a bit unusual. Our windows, which tilt out at either the top or bottom, did not have screens. I just kind of figured that Oregon must not have a bug problem then, and it’s probably because I was still on my “OMG-I-live-in-Portland” high. Well, I was WRONG. Oregon has many freaking gross bugs.

The slugs? Nah, they don’t really bother me. But discovering that spiders have been crawling in our windows while we sleep? Well, I consider that to be an issue. Especially when I wake up coughing, and I’m 99% sure it’s because Charlotte was making a new web between my face and my pillow. I know it’s a terrifying visual, but I took care of it. By accidentally EATING THE EFFING SPIDER.

Not wanting this to happen again, I decided to find a way to fix not having suitable window screens. We tried out expandable ones, and we duct taped around any openings, but I’m not too fond of that kind of redneck fix, and it’s irritating when opening and closing the window. After a bit of digging around at Fabric Depot, I found a roll of magnetic adhesive tape and Pet Screen, which is a flexible nylon netting (it’s in the home decor section).

The nylon netting happened to be the perfect width, so that didn’t have to be cut. I only had to measure the window from top to bottom to decide the exact size of my screen. I gave it about a 1/2 inch of leeway (I don’t think I’ve ever actually typed that word), because I didn’t want to have to line up my screen EXACTLY with the edges of the window. It sounded like a pain in the ass.

After measuring, I obviously cut my screen. As if you couldn’t have guessed that.

Try to follow the line of the netting when you cut it out, okay? If you can’t see it very well, line up a piece of masking tape along the edge so you can see it. Or, find a 25-year-old snarky neighbor girl to do it for you.

I snipped off a piece of the adhesive magnetic tape and tried it out on a piece of fabric and a section of netting to see which one it stuck to best. THANK GOD it stuck to the netting better than the fabric, because I did not want to put that much effort into these. I rolled out the magnetic tape and and stuck it to the very edge of the netting.

Here’s where it got interesting, because I thought to myself, “Hey, self, you’re done!”

Not so. Magnetic tape won’t stick to metal windows that have been painted over 456 times. I even used my foot to hold it up in one corner, and used my right arm for the other corner, while waving to passerby’s. I looked like I was playing a questionable and probably inappropriate game of Twister.

When my first plan failed, I lined the edge of my window with the rest of the sticky tape, because it wanted to stick to itself anyways. [ NOTE: Clean the window edge with rubbing alcohol before you put the tape on it. If it’s not clean (of course mine wasn’t!), it won’t want to stick very well, and you’ll have to do it over later.]


Just make sure you buy enough magnetic tape if you make these. I’m fresh out after doing one window, but another trip to the store so I can have a spider-free apartment will be totally worth it.

*UPDATE*: I wanted to note that the magnetic tape did not hold well after we opened and closed the screen lots of times. I replaced that magnetic tape with adhesive Velcro on the window frame, and I replaced the magnetic tape on the actual screen with sew-on Velcro. I used a wide zig-zag stitch to sew it on, and it’s been working SO MUCH BETTER than the magnetic tape. It’s also nice that you can buy packages that inclue both the sew-on and adhesive Velcro in one box!

Naps: They’re for Winners!

| Comments

We’ve all been pretty sleepy here. I think it’s just getting used the rain. I try to convince myself that I don’t want to take naps, but watching these fuzz butts snooze all day doesn’t help.

I went to the shop to work on class samples the other night, and came home to a spectacular sky. It looked like it had to have been painted, with the dark clouds rolling in toward the sun. Now I feel cheesy, but I’m all out of smart ass poems. I think I used up the last of my creative juices when I told Rob that if he saw Steve Jobs walking down the street, I was sure he would “dry hump him up against a building while tweeting about it”. I’m sorry for that visual. Try to forget about it as you look at the pretty picture:

Speaking of sewing, I’m working on a post about the tools I use.

I’m sure it’s going to be so thrilling that you won’t even be able to sleep afterwards, and you’ll probably tattoo “Gingher: It’s Like Butter” somewhere on yourself.

Green and Rainy

| Comments

That’s probably how I would describe Portland right now if anyone asked me. It has this deep, beautiful, looks-like-a-fairytale green color. I don’t think I’ve ever seen grass grow so fast, and I certainly haven’t seen plants take off like this. We started a small container garden not long after moving here, and I haven’t quite gotten to use to making a salad by something growing off my balcony. Apartment ledges usually coincide with mold, cigarettes and fat cats if you ask me, and to put that image next to food, that I’m going to eat, seemed a little gross at first.

Yes, Duncan, I’m sorry. Don’t touch my plants or I’ll let the dog lick your face.

But now I love it. I always liked taking care of my little garden in Indianapolis, but that consisted of flowers. It’s so different to take care of plants that you’ll eat- it’s satisfying and not to mention it saves money. I like not having to put sage on the grocery list for Rob, as if I get to give that $3.50 price tag the finger.

(I think these lettuces look like sea anemones from up above.)

With all of the greenery around here, I can’t help but also want to eat green fruit. Our local co-op, Food Front, has some incredible pears right now. They’re juicy and delicate, and are the perfect thing to eat while watching lettuce grow.