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Monthly Archives: February 2013

  • Humbug Bag (there must be other names for this bag)

    February 27, 2013

    I love large totes, but finding stuff, particularly small stuff, in a large tote can be a bit of a challenge. This humbug bag is a great solution for keeping small, similar or related items together. One or more humbug bags might be corralled in a large tote. The natural-but-strange three-dimensional shape of a humbug bag is the result of the end seams being twisted 90 degrees. A full humbug bag has no parallel sides. A humbug bag does not lay flat without wrinkling somewhere – these qualities make a humbug bag easier to single out from other items in the dark unknown of a large tote, or whatever name you want to give to an enclosing structure that you may or may not attempt to carry, but if you do attempt to carry, the distance will likely turn out to be much farther than you thought it would be, and the tote much heavier than you ever thought it could be.

    The bag can be made almost any size that fits your needs. You might find some scraps of fabric just too wonderful to toss are large enough for a bag – killer solution, solves two problems with one project.

    I’m using oilcloth and a basic sewing machine for this blog project. This is quite a change for me as I usually use quilted or upholstery fabric and sew bags like this on a serger. Oilcloth is not as easy to turn inside out  as 'regular' fabric, and a serger sometimes combines two or more operations into a single operation. There is no 'step skipping' here – miss a step or commit a misstep and you may not get the correct results.

    Supplies: Rectangle of material - Oilcloth or heavy fabric. Short side of rectangle must be about 1 inch longer than the desired finished opening.  Long side of rectangle slightly longer than twice the desired length of one of the twisted end seams. Zipper – nylon tooth zipper, at least 2 inches longer than the short side of the fabric rectangle. Wonder Tape (optional)


    1. Follow all the steps to create a wrong-side out, open-ended fabric tube, with a lengthwise zipper. With oilcloth or fabric right-side up, place the zipper face down, aligning the edge of zipper tape with the short edge of the fabric. Make sure the zipper extends equally past both long edges of the fabric. 2.  If you are using oilcloth, you may find it helpful to use Wonder Tape to hold the zipper in place  while sewing.

    3. Using a zipper foot, sew zipper tape to fabric. 4. Align the remaining loose edge of the zipper tape, right-sides together, with the remaining short edge of oilcloth or fabric. 5. Sew zipper strip to fabric.

    6. Working with the end where the zipper pull is located when the zipper is closed, fold oilcloth or fabric so the zipper is centered across the tube end. Pin end closed. 7. Open the zipper about half way so you will be able to turn the bag right-side out after sewing both tube ends closed.

    8. Stitch across the only pinned end. 9. Flatten the open end 90 degrees from the sewn end and pin. 10. Stitch across the end.

    11. Trim the excess zipper tape even with the edges of the bag. 12. Turn the bag right side out.

  • Piping Hot Binding

    February 21, 2013

    When I talk about how I do the piping for my quilts and garments, I'm always surprised that so many people have never heard of the Groovin' Piping Trimming Tool. This device makes the task of creating piping with a consistent seam allowance quick and accurate. Basically a thick ruler with two deep grooves, the ruler by Susan Cleveland comes with a 16 page instruction book with wonderful illustrations and variations on how to use it. The ruler is available at your local Moore's Sewing Center.

    Susan Cleveland's instruction book starts with how to prepare your quilt for binding, and the book ends with finishing the back side of your quilt – and virtually everything you need to know is in the book. Instructions are given for both right and left handed people.

    Because complete instructions come with the ruler, I'm just going to show the highlights of how this ruler works to make piping with perfect seam allowances.

    Supplies: Groovin' Piping Trimming Tool Rotary Cutter Cutting Mat Fabric you want to use for piping

    Create piping for narrow binding:

    1. Cut fabric for piping 1 1/4”wide. 2. Press fabric strips wrong-sides together. 3. Tie an overhand knot at one end of the cording so it won't pull through the casing. 4. Thread your machine with thread to match the piping fabric. 5. Note: Susan has instructions for many sewing machine brands and accessories. I use a piping foot on my machine. The piping foot is basically self-guiding, keeping the cord in place and creating uniform width piping. 6. The seam allowance of the piping needs to be trimmed to produce a smooth, accurate seam. 7. Lay the ruler over the piping with the cording in the ruler groove and the seam allowance protruding from the under side of the ruler. 8. Cut along the edge of the ruler with a rotary cutter. 9. Grasp the cording and gently pull it so the next section of piping slides under the ruler and into the groove. Cut again, and repeat until all the piping has been trimmed. 10. Now you have piping ready to install in your project. 11.  The photo below shows a typical seam with piping. Whether you use contrasting fabric for a color splash or the same fabric for dimensional accent, piping can jazz up your project.

  • Disappearing Nine-Patch Block

    February 12, 2013

    This popular block has been around for a long time. It is still a favorite to use up those wonderful scraps of fabric that quilters love to save. The block can be made with random color fabric scraps or only 3 strong colors, used in the same location in all the blocks.

    The block I am doing for this blog uses two different Hawaiian print fabrics, one primarily red and the other blue, and black fabric for the center of each block.

    When only three contrasting fabrics with no or only small patterns of color are used, a quilt of these blocks will have a very uniform geometric design in both color and shape. Supplies (per block): 9 fabric squares - all the same size. How many squares in total for each color you will need depends on the finished size you want your quilt to be. The desired finished size of the quilt and the number of blocks in the quilt determines the size and total number of fabric squares of each color. Instructions:

    The basic 9 patch block is sewn with the fabrics arranged similar to the image above. My quilt block colors are different, but you should be able to follow the process. 1. For every block, sew the squares together, keeping the black square in the center and the other squares in the same location, i.e. four of one fabric in the corner positions and the other four in the middle of the outside edges. Make as many nine-patch blocks as you need.

    2.  Each block gets cut into 4 smaller pieces. The center square should be cut in half both vertically and horizontally. Measure the center square to locate the cutting lines. Make two cuts  - one vertical and one horizontal in the middle row. 3. The nine-patch block looks like this after it is cut into 4 smaller pieces. NOTE: because the smaller pieces have two new edges with seam allowance, every 'reassembled' block will shrink by twice the seam allowance in both height and width. If your quilt MUST be a specific size, you must allow for this shrinkage. This means you need to adjust the size of the patch pieces, and thus the block size to create a 'reassembled' block size that meets your needs. 4. Take the upper right and lower left small pieces and turn them 180 degrees. Those small black squares are now at the outer edges of the block. You should rotate the same relative position squares if you want a uniform geometric pattern in your finished quilt.

    5. Sew the four small blocks together. 6. Repeat the process for all the blocks you need for your quilt.

  • Custom Holder for Lip-Protection Balm in Mini-Tubular Configuration

    February 5, 2013

    I know I need to use lip balm more in the dry winter months. Finding my lip balm stick somewhere at the bottom of my purse is usually a challenge (no clever or disparaging comments need be added here). But, I can usually find my keys – so I decided to mechanically associate the keys and the little tubular thing. You can replicate this idea with a little bit of fabric and a metal ring.

    Supplies: two – 2” x 9” heavy fabric pieces, or if you want to use quilting cotton, strengthen with a layer of heavy weight iron-on interfacing. one – 1” ring (either solid or split key ring type)


    1. Place right-sides together and sew along three sides with a 1/4” seam allowance. Leave one short side open.

    2. Trim excess fabric from corners. 3. Turn right-side out. Push out corners using a chopstick. Press. 4. Tuck about 1/4” of the raw edges of the opening in. Do not sew closed at this time. 5. Fold the fabric tube 2 1/2” from the closed end. Press. 6. Edge stitch along three sides of the 2 1/2” overlapped fabric to form a pocket. 7. Fold the open end over one inch. Press. 8. Slide the metal ring into place under the one inch flap. 9. Sew along the end of the one inch flap to secure the ring. 10. Place mini-tubular lip balm container stick into holder.

    Expand on this idea if you have other reasonably small, long objects (perhaps a mini LED flashlight) that would be easier to find if attached to some other object. For example, a split ring could be used to attach a case to a belt loop. A case might be custom sized for the mini LED flashlight mentioned earlier, or a pen and/or pencil, or any relatively small, light weight object that you use a lot but always seems to be misplaced (euphemism for lost).

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