Zip-o-riffic Pillow, or Zipper Hell

I went into this project so bright-eyed and hopeful; yes, other people complained about zippers, and some people build their project repertoires around projects without zippers. But, surely things would be different for me!  I would just follow directions and be careful, and surely everything would turn out all right! Zippers could not be that hard; other people must not be persistent or brave enough!

I was flushed with my successes so far- no, my work was not perfect, and my last pillow was a lot smaller than  the book said it should be.  But, I do not expect perfection, at least not right away, and was thrilled with my work so far. I was  looking forward to learning a new, useful skill (zipper installation) that would open up a wider variety of projects, likes skirts, dresses, and pants.

I bravely changed the presser foot- I think this was the first time I had done this, and it was a lot easier than I had expected- and got started. True, I was unable to find a diagram about how exactly the zipper is positioned in relation to the zipper foot, but I just tried to figure it out.  It was immediately apparent that my machine does not like sewing anything remotely thick, such as fabric next to a zipper.  OK, I reasoned, nothing is perfect, just coax the machine into doing what is was designed to do. But, I ended up breaking two needles!

Zippered throw pillow
Zip-o-riffic pillow with the Zipper from Hell

As far as I can tell, I followed the zipper directions. I managed to baste the zipper on and get one side of the zipper fully sewn on before slinking away in horror.

After this project, I looked askance at my sewing machine for a week, and was wary of starting a too-hard project, or any project at all. I’m going to come back to learning how to sew zippers after doing the rest of the two-spool projects. I don’t know what I am doing wrong- I might have to put out a craigslist ad asking for help, or find a class on zippers.  For my next project, I am going to make a sewing machine cozy from  Sew Everything Workshop. I am fully committed to learning zippers- they make so many more types of projects possible- but am taking a break from them right now.

Grade: Incomplete

Pattern Weights for 50 Cents

So far, learning how to sew is full of little challenges. Even the simple things are hard. For example, the simple act of cutting fabric in a neat and clean line has been difficult. Although I try to cut exactly on the line, it seems like the fabric is always shifting and throwing my cuts a little bit off.

Pattern Weights filled with 50 cents worth of pennies
Make Your Own Pattern Weights for Practically Free
Or, if the pattern piece is pinned to the fabric, the alignment of the pattern and fabric gets distorted as the scissors move.

One tip I read is to make sure that you hold the fabric scissors perpendicular to the floor (as opposed to an angle to either side) as you cut.

However, not even this tip was working for me. I decided to buy a 45mm rotary cutter and a self-healing mat to cut on. To cut my fabric with these tools, I would also need pattern weights.

rotary cutter and self-healing mat
Gingher 45mm Rotary Cutter and Fiskers Self-Healing Mat

Pattern weights
are of course available to buy, but I figured that they would be a great learning project. And cheap to make! Pattern weights are simply small pouches of fabric filled with a heavy stuffing material.

Putting pattern weights on your fabric and pattern will hold the pattern and fabric in place so they don’t shift as you cut. Apparently, pattern weights are primarily for cutting with a rotary cutter, but I think that they will also be useful for cutting with scissors just to hold everything in place.

As a novice sewer, I needed instructions on how to make pattern weights on the cheap. I found this tutorial which served as my guide: 50 Cent Pattern Weight Tutorial.

Overall this was an easy project to make.
My weights came out a little sloppy because sewing the opening closed with so little fabric to space was kind of difficult. Still, for just a few pennies this is an excellent starter sewing project.


I was at the fabric store yesterday (I got some purple moleskin for the Cuddle Up Cardigan and some pink satin for Tender is the Nightie from “Sew Everything Workshop” by Diana Rupp). Both fabrics were on sale, yay!) when a woman asked me if I sew. She is a longtime sewer who had just discovered the profusion of make-your-own dress form guides online. She was very excited about this discovery, since making your own dress form based on your own body lets you do the real customization you want- customizing based on your body, so you look your best! Basically, you put on some old clothes, have a friend wrap you in duct tape, cut off the duct tape, then stuff and mount the resulting dress form. Brilliant!

She also said that she feels like more and more people are starting to sew. This gave me a chance to say that Wrong and I decided to start sewing as a way to rebel against the decline in clothing quality.

By next year, my sewing skills will have improved enough for me to make a costume for the dog. I'm thinking some sort of European baron.
Yes! She said that she thinks clothing quality has declined, too, and also said that women’s clothing used to be mostly permapres- yes, like the permanent press setting on your washing machine- but nowadays permapress is used mostly on men’s clothing. Permapress helps prevent wrinkling. She feels that since clothing styles move through cycles, permapress is due for a comeback.

It’s nice to feel vindicated by learning that other people are disappointed by the poor quality clothes manufacturers are putting out now, and to feel like Wrong and I are part of a larger movement of people who are just learning to sew.

As a side note, since Halloween is coming up fast and people are very busy making costumes, the store was crazy- at least a third of the thread was out of stock, the fabric cutting area had dozens of bolts waiting to be put away, and it was pretty crowded. I couldn’t even come close to finding matching purple thread for my cardigan, and buying black lace for my night-gown was impossible. Oh well, I am going to do black contrast stitching on the cardigan, and try for some black lace at a different store.

Supply Time!

Once I had my sewing machine and Wrong and I were ready to start joint projects, I went down to the local craft shop to buy supplies. Ouch! Buying all those little items adds up. I had done a little research online to see what tools I would need. It was a little overwhelming to see all those tools and types of cloth, so the shopping trip took longer than I would have liked.

I ordered dressmaker’s shears online,

Mundial Dressmaker's Shears
Mundial Classic Forged 8-inch Dressmaker's Shears

but they hadn’t arrived yet, so I tried to use household scissors to cut my cloth instead. I gave this up almost immediately- it’s just too hard to use household scissors for cloth. They seem sharp enough for normal use, but once I tried using them on cloth, it was immediately apparent that they were just too dull. I had to wait a few days for my shears to arrive. I got Mundial Classic Forged 8-inch Dressmaker’s Shears. They are not the fanciest (read: Gingher G-8 8-inch Dressmaker’s Shears), but they are very good-quality, all-metal scissors. Now, I just need keep them hidden from my boyfriend, since sewing scissors should only be used on cloth!

I was tempted to buy a rotary cutter and cutting mat, but they are just too pricy for me right now. Someday, though! It is more important that I build skills right now.

Since at this point Wrong and I didn’t have a book yet, and also now realized that, yes, since sewing is a craft that has been practiced for thousands of years, we should be using that accumulated knowledge instead of attempting to go it on our own and learn without books or patterns, I also got an apron pattern Simplicity 1971 reversible apron. Yay!