Easy isn’t alway so Easy


Can a Wallet become a Wadder?

A few weeks ago, in the midst of a summer of wedding sewing, I decided to make a wallet from this Wonder Wallet pattern which I thought would be fairly easy.  The truth is, I’ve had this pattern for a while and because I like my daughter’ fabric wallet, I’ve wanted to make one for myself.  With a few scraps from a 4 ply silk casual skirt I made a few weeks earlier, the fabric seemed just right for a wallet.  Since I’d never made an object such as this, I even planned for a muslin.  That’s a joke because I rarely make a muslin for a real garment!  Actually I cut out doubles, hoping that the first one would work out and I’d throw away the second set of cut-outs.  Alternatively the first one would be a dry run so I’d make the second one correctly.

The only change I planned was to add an outside zippered change pocket.  That’s where things went awry. From the front the wallet was OK.  I learned a few things which I’ll note below but the outcome was acceptable.  I even put a button and a snap closure on the front.

The spaces for credit cards were very nicely positioned and are the perfect size.

The finished product was OK.  The stitches were fairly straight, the zipper was the perfect color and the size was right.  It was lightweight, would handle a few of our favorite plastic cards and there was a place for some change.  I transferred some money and credit cards into the wallet and finally realized the huge error I’d made.  I added the zipper pocket to the back of the wallet and topstitched it but didn’t secure the top of the pocket to the back of the wallet.  The change immediately fell out.

I’ll make the other one soon and will make a few changes from what I learned:

1. An underlining or interfacing would have improved the look and durability of the flap.

2. Sewing the change pocket should have been the very first step.  Maybe I would have realized I needed to secure the top of the pocket.

3. Somewhere my seams weren’t quite even as it looks a little lumpy at the fold.

4. Use a magnetic snap

Question: A Wadder or Not?

Since I can’t “wad” this into a ball before throwing it in a corner, can it really be called a “wadder”?  I say it’s just one more humbling experience from which I can learn.

When are Children Ready for Machine Sewing?

Teaching Mira to Sew

Many of us can remember our childhood sewing experiences.  For me, my first recollection was sewing cotton strips that my mother would later have woven into rag rugs.  From her cotton sewing scraps, my mother tore strips of cotton about 1″ wide and the length of the left over fabric.  Bags of these strips would need to be sewn together in a straight forward and back pattern and the long strips were then rolled into a ball.  What fun for a kid who wanted to start to sew.  I’m not sure but I was probably about 9 or 10 years old.  I tried to find a few references to cotton rag rugs but even on the web they were pretty hard to find.

Because Mira, who is now 8, has such an intense interest in all things fabric and sewing, I was eager to give her the opportunity to try sewing with a machine.  In May when we visited I had the perfect opportunity because I had already set up her mother’s sewing machine, which is my old Bernina 830.

When Mira and I were the only ones awake early in the morning, still in our pj’s, I asked her if she would like to learn to sew on a machine.  She was delighted with the opportunity.

1. Our choice was to make a quilt, so Mira pulled out her stash of fabrics, which consists of a fairly large bag with an assortment of small scraps.

2. She cut a few 4″ squares from a variety of pretty fabrics.

3. We started with a safety lesson such as “never put your fingers under the needle, but instead, lay your hands flat on top of the fabric with one on the right and one on the left of the needle”. From this photo, you can see that she took the lesson seriously.

5.  One by one she sewed the pieces and cut the threads.

6. And soon she had 8 pieces sewn together.

7. What a proud seamster.

8.  Mira wanted to continue but I ran short on time.  Next time I visit we will add more pieces to the quilt.

Based on an N of one, I say that a 7 or 8 year old is definitely ready for machine sewing.

What a great gift for a young child – a sense of accomplishment.  After all, what is more important than mastering a new skill?

Craft or Fine Art?

Hmong Reverse Applique

Last weekend Kevin and I took a bike ride into Philadelphia’s Old City to visit a few of the visitor sites.  One of our first stops was Head House Market, which is a lovely colonial market surrounded by cobblestone streets.  The first one was built on this site in 1745.  In current day it is on the National Register and there is a craft market in the Head House each weekend.

As we strolled through the craft stalls, I came upon a textile craft which I’ve not see for a few years.  A young woman was selling Hmong handcrafted items, of which the most fascinating was beautifully hand-sewn quilt decorations, pillow covers and larger items such as Christmas tree skirts.  Large or small, it was difficult to take my eyes off these reverse applique quilts which are so carefully sewn so that every line is amazingly consistent in form and size.  This art form has a long  history.  This type of quilting is done only a few places in the world.  In Southeast Asia reverse applique is primarily done by Hmong girls from the time they are school-aged and they continue to make these items as adults.

When we lived in Wisconsin it was common to see these quilts at craft fairs.  At juried fairs there was usually one stall where women sold these goods as well as the more common hand embroidered Hmong Story Quilts.  In fact it was so common to see these quilts that I don’t think I appreciated their beauty.  For some reason when I saw them on Saturday I was fascinated, like when you see and touch a beautiful piece of fabric and you keep going back to look at it one more time, knowing that there’s a desire but not a need. Finally I carefully looked through every one of the small pieces and purchased two small treasures.

Not being a quilter, I really don’t know much about this type of applique, however I believe both are made from 3 layers of fabric although there are some which seem to have as many as seven layers of fabric.  For the applique, the fabric is carefully cut and sewn under with unbelievable precision.  With the naked eye you can’t see a single stitch.

Kevin asked what I was going to do with them.  I replied, “just own them”.

Learn More……

There aren’t a lot of references on the web but if you would like to know more about this type of fabric art, here are a few websites:



If you have more information on this textile art, please leave a comment.