Debate over “Handmade by Me” labels

Dear Sewfie,

My sister-in-law sews a lot of gifts for the whole family. She puts one of those “Handmade by So-and-So” labels into EVERYTHING she makes, whether it be a bag, a shirt, a pair of pajama pants… she even sewed one to the bottom of a stuffed animal she recently made for my son!

Too many labels?
She is making me crazy with all the labels. I know its handmade. I know she made it “especially for me”. I just find the whole tag thing pretentious and annoying. How can I get her to stop?

– Tagged Out

Dear Tagged Out,

When one sews a handmade gift for someone, it is an act of love. It takes both dedication of effort and time. The sewn-in label is just a way of saying: “I thought of you and I care”. Its like a tiny little greeting card. So for Pete’s sake lighten up! You should be grateful she wants to spend her precious time trying to create something special for you.

I’m guessing you didn’t mind when Tommy Hilfiger put his little flag on your chest or Victoria emblazoned her moniker on your drawers, so your dear Sister-in-Law should be shown the same courtesy. And you might want to give a quick re-read to one of Sewfie’s previous posts: Don’t Be a Handmade Grinch. The same crabbiness applies.

Handmade by Me Labels – are they too much?
Warm Stitches,

Going on a Fabric Diet

Dear Sewfie,

I have WAY too much fabric. It’s cluttering up my house and life. I can’t find fabric that I’ve previously purchased. I’ve even resorted to re-purchasing fabric I knew I had, just because I couldn’t find it! I want to go on a fabric diet. How can I shed those extra yards?

– Packing an extra 100 (yards)

Dear Packing,

Diets are really pretty simple: burn off more than you consume. Simply buy less and sew more. Let’s start off by focusing on the buy less part of that equation. Just like Coke and Wendy’s French fries, you can cut back on fabric too. Starting today, tell yourself you will not buy any NEW fabric if there is a perfectly suitable alternative already in the house. (For those of you who are Extreme Fabric Dieters, you can preclude yourself from acquiring any new fabric while there is any fabric at all available in your house… good luck with that.) And that means, no, you can’t go out to your Local Quilt Shop to get that one little fat quarter in the perfect shade of purple to finish a project … even though you already have 10 other purples in the house which you deem not quite the right match. You’ve already proven you can’t be trusted to go into that shop: you will buy the one fat quarter, and probably $40 worth of other fabric that, although beautiful, fills no immediate need in your sewing queue. And, no, seeing how pretty it looks on your shelf doesn’t count as filing a need.

You know you have so much fabric, that you could meet all of your sewing needs for months (or years) without the need to buy more. You already know this to be true, so just try it. Being forced to use what you already have in your stash is actually an exercise in being creative. Instead of just buying pre-matched color ways from some collection, you will give yourself the opportunity to pick from different designers, different lines and even mix and match between modern and vintage. The results will be truly unique. And just like those pesky Pilates, all that stretching may hurt a little at first, but after a while, you will start to enjoy it and soon you will be appreciating the results.

Sewfie always practices what she preaches. On that note, here is an example: a lovely animal themed log cabin baby quilt she is working on – entirely from her stash:

  • The two plaids and the animal print are from a Daisy Kingdom collection (from 1994!), originally designated to be a toddler dress. The intended recipient is now 14, so that ship has pretty much sailed.
  • The calicoes are leftovers from a holiday Dress-A-Doll charity sewing project for the Salvation Army. Sewfie made Colonial styled doll outfits, way back 8 or 9 years ago when she was mad for sewing for 18”dolls.
  • Finally, the brown fabric is leftover from the cover model of the Sew Fun pattern Baby Sand Castle Quilt & Beach Ball. This fabric was called Pumpkin & Spice, but it looked just like sand to Sewfie.

What can YOU sew from your stash today?

Warm Stitches,

Does Thread Get Old and What is Best Thread for Knits?


I have been away from sewing for awhile. All of my thread has been hanging on my walls on the thread holders.
Does thread get old? It has been there for several years… Will it harm my machine? Also what is the best thread to use for sewing baby knit’s? I am a new grandma to twin boy’s, sewing lots of outfits for them.

Thanks much,

Dear Jill,

I’m delighted to hear you will be dusting off those spools and returning to sewing!

Old thread will not harm your machine, but age may make it too brittle to be useful for your sewing projects. To test if the thread is still viable, unroll about 12” from the spool, grasp the ends firmly and give it a quick tug. If it breaks easily, it’s too old. If you are not sure “how easy is easily”, then compare to some recently bought thread. In general, thread does last a long time – as in years. If it’s more than a decade old, it’s probably getting too old. But if it’s just 5 years or so, I’m sure it’s still good. It also depend on the type of thread. Cotton will deteriorate faster than polyester. I’m pretty sure I still have polyester thread in my sewing basket from high school, oh magenta…. how I loved thee.

As for the best thread to use for sewing baby knits, you’ll most certainly want to use polyester or nylon threads and avoid cottons. Cotton doesn’t have the stretchiness that the synthetic fibers have. Additionally, if you are sewing on a conventional machine – as opposed to an overlock or serger which is specially designed for sewing knits – you can increase the stretchiness of your seams by dialing up a slight zig-zag stitch. This will give the seam a bit more stretch for those wiggly, growing little boys.

For best results in sewing knits on a conventional machine, be sure not to stretch the fabric while sewing, or else you end up with a scalloped looking seam. You can also lighten up on the pressure foot tension to get less stretching and puckering of the seams. Finally, I have found a walking foot (often used in quilting), to be helpful when sewing knits, especially in sewing across the grain. The “hopping” motion of the foot helps to eliminate stretching.

Enjoy sewing for those little ones and be sure to get started right away… they grow so fast!

Warm Stitches,