Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sew Can I

After two years of collecting dust, the sewing machine my mother in law got us as a Christmas gift was finally unpackaged and test out! My Aunt Christine was down for ScrapFest 2013 the other weekend, so I took advantage of hosting her for the weekend to quiz her on the ins and outs of using a sewing machine. You can categorize me as "little to no experience" when it comes to sewing, I really was not even sure where to start.

My aunt quickly realized this when she got a look at the random spools of thread I bought from Michaels that week. Not at all the correct type...who knew!
For my first project, I set my sights on a Grandin Road decoration I had spied months earlier. This catalog is a Halloween junkie's dream, with life size yard sculptures, elaborate costumes and all the makings of a great haunted house. The mantel scarf stood out to me because I have struggled in creating a real "scene" on my fireplace mantel, as opposed to just setting a bunch of random things atop it. With a little more flair and color on the sides, perhaps the job would get easier.
Halloween is Christine's favorite holiday, and she has the fabrics, rubber stamp collection and crafty kits to back it up. She brought a stack of skulls n' bats fabrics down for us to try our homemade mantel scarf out on.
The fireplace mantel measures 50 inches across, so we decided to make 2 sized pennant templates - one at 6" wide and 15" long, one at 4 1/2" wide and 12" long. A cut up paper bag sufficed for our template. After ironing the fabric, we got to work cutting triangles, making sure to leave about a quarter inch on all sides to allow for the seam without losing our intended length and width. 
After determining how many of each fabric we'd need, we cut the same amount out in plain black fabric for the backside of each pennant. The two sides were placed front side facing each other, pins were placed to match up the lines and it was run through the sewing machine leaving an inch or two at the top to pull out the fabric and shape back into a pennant. You might use a knitting needle or something similar to fully poke out the corners. What did I have handy? A lollipop stick leftover from the Great Pie Pop Experiment of 2012.
My aunt gave me the tip to snip off the ends of the triangles to get rid of excess fabric. As long as you don't go too close to the seam. I got al little cocky by my 2oth pennant and ripped the fabric because I sewed a too close to the edge. I was not adhering to the quarter inch buffer I had been taught...
After finishing up the pennants, I arranged them in a few different ways until I had an flow that seemed to mix the fabric styles the perfect way.
I did not both sewing up the edges of the pennants as I knew the tops would be covered up eventually with a connecting fabric runner. 

Speaking of the fabric runner, I was a little torn on what to do. By this time, my aunt had waved goodbye and headed back home. I was easily able to recreate the cutting and sewing of a couple dozen pennants, but I was not quite sure the steps to bring them all together. 
We headed to Joann Fabrics where I picked out some more fabric - not quite solid colors, but simple stripes and polka dots to allow it to blend in with all of the other styles easily.

I knew the mantel was 50" wide, so figured I'd get at least 5 feet of fabric to have plenty extra. Well, I should have paid more attention during the cutting because when I got home I only had about 44 inches of each! This added the extra step of sewing an end cap onto each side with the opposite fabric. 
I cut out and sewed up two identical pieces, giving it about 10 inches of depth to allow it to hang easily from the mantel without falling forward easily. This isn't the full depth of the fireplace top (which in all honesty is not actually a "mantel" at all), but I typically fill the top with fake leaves or other decor to fill in the white space. I ran three sides of the panels through the machine and turned it inside out. So far so good.
I took a quick break from the machine to press the pennants with an iron. Amazing how clean a look that creates with a couple short passes of the iron. Also how flat they get - check out these two stacks that have about the same number in each pile!
After pinning the pennants in the order I wanted, this is where things got a little complicated. I started off well, but keeping everything in place proved a bit difficult and I had a couple mishaps where a pennant got missed completely. I painstakingly removed a few inches of stitched thread, only to mess up again. Then I forgot the fact that just because I'm sewing on the underside of the banner, this doesn't mean the stitching won't show through the front. Oops. 

I did have the "stripe" on the fabric to follow which helped me keep things straight, for the most part. I think the next time I'll do it I will figure out if I can get the seam on the inside like I did with the pennants. There has to be a way!
During this time I jammed the sewing machine a couple more times and thanked the Good Lord that it had happened once while Christine was here so she could show me what to do to fix the thread. And then the big reveal:
In the end, everything was in one piece. For a first attempt I am more than pleased with how it turned out and excited to attempt one with a Christmas theme, this time with a cleaner final stitch! I actually have enough pennants to fill the sides of the mantle, but have not taken that plunge yet.Friends and family be warned, I may be measuring a mantle near you to practice the craft while creating a homemade gift...
Now that I've got the sewing bug, what else should I attempt?  

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