Master the Herringbone Stitch

Gloria McKinnon's Peaches & Cream Bed Runner

If you're looking for a beautiful stitch to use as a seam embellishment or decorative border, the herringbone is a perfect choice. This decorative stitch and its numerous variations are ideal for creating gorgeous embellishments, as seen on this block of the Peaches & Cream Bed Runner designed by expert embroiderer Gloria McKinnon.

Follow Gloria's instructions below for fashioning a herringbone stitch and one of its variations - herringbone with multiple beads. Note that the width of the stitch may be adjusted as desired. Various widths are shown in the illustrations.

Basic Herringbone Stitch:
Shown in buttonhole twist, but may also be worked in silk ribbon.

1. Bring the needle up at point A.

Figure 1
2. Step up and to the right slightly. Enter at point B and exit at point C (figure 1).

Figure 2

3. Step down and to the right slightly. Enter at point D and exit at a new point A (figure 2).

Figure 3

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 across the area to be embellished (figure 3).

Herringbone with Multiple Beads

Herringbone With Multiple Beads:
Complete the Basic Herringbone Stitch and add a horizontal bar of three or four seed beads.

For more stitching inspiration, don't miss our new DVD Embellishing Crazy Patch III with Gloria McKinnon. Gloria will teach you everything you need to know about this age-old quilting art - from creating your crazy patch foundation to her glorious embellishment techniques. 

Embellishing Crazy Patch III
You'll learn more about the beautiful herringbone stitch and its many variations like the Alabama Star. Gloria will also show you how to embellish with silk prints, how to fashion a featherstitch and its variations and much more. Together, you will create a one-of-a-kind crazy patch project! A bonus PDF is included featuring tips for creating Gloria's Peaches & Cream Bed Runner.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Sew a Rickrack and Button Hem

"Let's Have a Conversation" Bishop Dress

Over the years, many Valentine's Day and heart-themed designs have been featured in the pages of Sew Beautiful - from the popular "Sweet Valentine" dress in Issue 104 to the gorgeous "Heart of Roses" gown in our 20th anniversary celebration edition.

Our recent December/January edition (Issue 151) continued this tradition with a "Shades of Pink" Valentine's gallery that included this oh-so-sweet smocked bishop dress. The classic conversational hearts picture plate was designed by Frances Messina Jones and is smocked on Ellen McCarn's Ultimate Bishop Dress. The dress has a very vintage Valentine's feel to it; not the pre-made, fold-over, cartoon-character kind, but the doily, paper-cut heart and glitter kind of yesteryear. 

Below, we've included a tutorial for sewing the bishop's unique rickrack and button hem. This is a great and easy way to dress up any plain dress hem! If you wish to recreate our bishop for your favorite little Valentine, complete instructions for smocking the "Let's Have a Conversation" graph can be found in Issue 151.

Rickrack and Button Hem

Rickrack and Button Hem:
1. Fold up a 4-inch hem and sew 1 inch from foldline, creating a 1-inch pleat. 

2. Edgestitch rickrack to underside of foldline so that bottom half peeks out from beneath. 

3. Sew buttons onto pleat at 1-1/2-inch intervals.

That's all there is to it! If you'd like to receive seasonal sewing inspiration, projects, tips and technique tutorials all year long, we hope you'll consider subscribing to Sew Beautiful. 

Within the pages of each edition, you'll find classics both new and old to create for your family's treasure chest. Click here to find out how you can receive a free trial issue!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Choosing the Right Fabric for Bags

Lisa Lam's A Bag for All Reasons

Fabric selection is an important part of any sewing project, and bags are no different. Generally speaking, fabric falls into two main categories: dress-weight fabric and upholstery-weight fabric. As the names would suggest, we use dress weight for garments and upholstery weight for home décor items. To make bags, however, we can use both types. Dress-weight fabric is usually better suited to bag linings and upholstery-weight fabric is best for bag exteriors, but there are exceptions to this rule. Lisa Lam's book A Bag for All Reasons features great tips for choosing the perfect fabric for any kind of bag. We've included some below:

Cotton/quilt fabric - This fabric is used both in the lining and the exterior of bags. Cotton is available in many different weights, but for bag making try to use mid-weight cotton and up. Quilting fabric is usually made from cotton and comes in a fantastic array of colorful, beautiful and fun prints. You can use cotton for almost any type of bag.

Laminated cloth/oilcloth - Usually used for the exterior of bags, this vinyl-coated fabric comes in fantastic prints and has a tough waterproof surface, making it perfect for swim bags, travel bags and wash bags. Working and stitching with laminated cloth is a bit different from working with woven fabrics.

Canvas/denim - Usually used for the exterior of bags, canvas is available in different weights. Choose the heaviest weight your sewing machine can cope with. Canvas is strong and it has rugged good looks. Be sure to use a jeans needle when sewing with canvas and denim. I think canvas looks best on larger bags such as shoppers, messenger bags, travel bags and beach bags.

Wool/suiting fabric - Usually used for the exterior of bags, wool is fabulous for bag making. Wool is available in different weights, patterns and textures. Its incredible depth of color and its texture make wool a luxurious fabric to work with and use. Wool is hardwearing, but for bag making it usually requires interfacing of some kind. Wool has a more open weave, so a strong dressmaking needle is sufficient. Try using wool for handbags, clutches and messenger bags.

Velvet - This is a luxury fabric that has fabulous depth of color and a strokeable texture. The nicest velvet is made from cotton. Velvet is available in different weights - choose the heaviest weight your sewing machine can cope with. Velvet frays easily, so it's wise to sew with a wider seam allowance. If your velvet is quite thick or you will be sewing with a few layers, use a jeans needle. Try using velvet for handbags, clutches and special occasion bags. Corduroy is similar to velvet in its uses and material qualities.

Linen - This versatile, hardwearing and natural fabric is available in both dress and home décor weight. The linen that bag makers use is the natural biscuit-colored home décor weight fabric. The color of the undyed cloth with its attractive irregular weave makes it a great foil for embroidery and/or patterned fabrics.

Silk/satin - Used both as the exterior or lining, silks and satins are luxury fabrics that have beautiful looks, texture and movement. Silk looks gorgeous pleated or gathered. Try to stick to heavier weight silk/satin because it's more durable and easier to sew with, while fine silk and satin are very slippery. Natural dupion silk is sturdy, has a lovely soft sheen and an interesting texture from the small slubs in the fabric. Shimmery satin fabric makes a glamorous lining in an evening bag. Use a fine sewing machine needle when sewing with silk or satin. Try using silk or satin for special occasion bags and purses.

Faux/real suede - Usually used for the exterior of bags, faux suede is similar in nature to velvet. Real suede is dense and harder to sew through than woven faux suede. If you feel that suede is too fragile for your bags, it can be strengthened with interfacing. Be sure to use a leather needle for sewing suede. Try using real suede for smaller special occasion bags and small handbags. Real and faux leather are similar in their uses to suede but have a shiny surface, often requiring a non-stick sewing machine foot.

Read more about A Bag for All Reasons here!

Calypso Tote with Missy Billingsley

Check out our new DVD Calypso Tote with designer Missy Billingsley for more bag inspiration. Missy walks you through everything on this DVD -- from the supply list and cutting instructions to strip piecing and finishing!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Heirloom Sewing Inspiration for 2014

Sew Beautiful February/March 2014

The new year has arrived, and we know that many of you are already busy planning for 2014's biggest moments. Whether you are thinking about sewing for Easter, a new baby or another occasion, opportunity for making something special abounds in our February / March 2014 edition of Sew Beautiful magazine. Classic heirloom designs are front and center in this new issue - from elegant bonnet embellishments to button-on smocked suits to a timeless lace heirloom blouse. Preview some of our favorites below:

Luminesce (left) and Peter Cottontail

Luminesce - Try your hand at pintuck smocking and enhance an ivory sash with a floral spray of embroidery as you create this elegant blush pink silk dupioni dress designed by Ann Peebles and Nancy McEvoy.

Peter Cottontail - With spring and the Easter season comes the arrival of a classic image, a little tan bunny wearing an adorable blue coat. Designed by Gwen Milner, this design was first introduced as a smocking plate in 1985. It's back to make Easter a special day for your little someone this year.

The Story of Mela Wilson Heirloom Clothing
The Story of Mela Wilson Heirloom Clothing - Many of you have been asking for more traditional, lace-trimmed heirlooms that inspired the very first issues of Sew Beautiful. Designer Mela Wilson has turned that style of sewing into a successful enterprise. We were delighted to visit her in Mobile, Ala. where we captured her beautiful heirloom clothing for this issue's designer profile.

Sweet Sophie (left) and Timeless Lace Heirloom Blouse
Sweet Sophie - This dear little blue heirloom designed by Claudia Newton has everything we love about French sewing - lace shaping, pintucks, delicate details like the overlapping flutter sleeve and just the perfect touch of hand embroidery. The pattern, sizes 2 to 4, is included on the pullout centerfold.

Timeless Lace Heirloom Blouse - Use scraps of lace and fabric from your stash and a Vogue pattern to sew up this heirloom women's blouse designed by Andrea Birkan. This is a very savvy and stylish way to use up those small yardages you've been accumulating. The pattern used here is designed with panels, so you can create as many lace panels as you'd like. Andrea created lace panels for each side of the center front placket and one down the center back. She also created lace blocks for the yokes.

Visit our online store to learn more about this new issue!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia