Gütermann Thread Color Number Conversion Charts

Gütermann retail thread sold in the US is labeled with a different set of color numbers than the wholesale versions sold on tubes, such as those available from Wawak. Gütermann Mara 100 All Purpose Thread – Tex 30 sold at Wawak is the same thread as the all-purpose thread sold in retail, but you get ten times as much as is on the small spools. So it’s a good deal to buy the larger spools of colors you use a lot.

If you ask, Wawak will email you a conversion chart so you can compare the 262 retail color numbers to the wholesale numbers. It only includes the numbers, not the retail color names, and is sorted by the retail numbers. It also looks like it has been photocopied a few times and is hard to read.

I have the wholesale 700 color thread chart, and I wanted to be able to easily convert the color numbers both ways, so I found a list of color names, added them to the list, and reformatted it. I included one page that is sorted by the retail numbers and one that is sorted by the wholesale numbers.

Here is a link to download the pdf of the new and improved Gütermann Thread Color Number Conversion Charts.

Thread chart thumbnail

When I compared the retail thread spools that I have to the thread chart, it looks like not all of the colors are exact matches, and thread color varies a bit between dye lots, so keep that in mind, but it should get you close to the right color.

Let me know if you find any errors in the chart.

 

Posted in Sewing

How to Make an Ultra-Fine Point, Ultra-Washable Fabric Marking Pen

The lack of an ultra-fine point, washable fabric marking pen has been a constant source of frustration to me the entire time I’ve been sewing. Every time I try to mark the top stitching line on my pocket corners or the stitching line on a v-neck t-shirt, and it comes out all wonky because my marks were too thick, I think, “If only I had a finer point marking pen, this could have come out perfectly!” A few months ago, for no apparent reason, this frustration suddenly went from a slightly irritating problem in the back of my mind to a pressing problem that I just had to solve.

After becoming obsessed with finding or making the perfect extra-fine point washable marking pen for fabric, I spent an utterly ridiculous amount of time and money trying different pens. Seriously, I’ve hardly sewn anything for the last few months. I’ve just been playing with pens. Luckily you can benefit from my crazy obsession, because while I couldn’t find a readily available truly washable fine point pen that would mark fabric, I did finally come up with a way to make the perfect washable fabric marking pen.

When I discovered Crayola Ultra-Clean fine line washable markers a few years ago, it was definitely a game changer for my sewing. They are amazing, and they wash out well enough that I am quite comfortable using them to mark the right side of white fabric. I mark all sorts of things I wouldn’t have before, and my sewing has improved because of this.

The only problem is that Crayola fine line markers make a mark about 1 mm wide when they are new, and the lines get wider as the marker tips wear out. Most of the time this is fine for garment sewing, but sometimes I really need a washable marking pen that makes a finer line—about the width of a piece of thread. And it needs to be a type of pen that will write on all types of fabric, even stretchy knits, without snagging or stretching out the fabric.

I tried a bunch of different washable pens on the market, including some that were actually marketed as washable fabric marking pens, and none of them washed out anywhere near as well as Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers. I reviewed each of them at the end of this post. If you are only marking on the wrong side of your fabric and don’t need a super-washable pen, maybe one of those options would work for you. But I’ve gotten spoiled using Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers, and I couldn’t bring myself to use anything less washable.

So I started thinking about how I could put Crayola washable marker ink into a finer point pen. It turns out, it is possible, and it works great! I tried it with many different types of porous plastic tipped fineliner pens that write 0.5 mm wide or finer, and most of them worked.

I’m sharing this tutorial with you so you too can have the perfect fabric pen. I hope someday Crayola will either make fineliner pens that use their ultra-clean washable ink, or partner with a sewing notions company to put their amazingly washable ink into fineliner pens to make truly washable pens for sewers, but for now you will have to do some pen hacking and put together your own washable fine point fabric pens.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

To make your perfect ultra-fine point, ultra-washable fabric marking pen, you will need Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable markers* and a fine tipped fineliner pen that has a marker-style fiber filled ink reservoir inside it. I have picked out seven types of pens that I know work to transplant the Crayola marker ink into, and I include specific instructions and supply lists for each type of pen below, since they are all a little different.

There are no substitutes for the Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable markers. Sorry. Do not use Crayola Super Tips, other Crayola washable markers, or any other brand of washable markers. Crayola makes a lot of different kinds of markers, and not all stores that sell Crayola markers carry this specific type of marker, so make sure you are getting the right kind. Look for “Ultra-Clean” and “Fine Line” on the package.

I haven’t found any other marker, pen, or ink that is anywhere near as washable as the Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers. To illustrate just how much more washable the Ultra-Clean markers are, below is a test swatch of white cotton jersey that I marked on with a RoseArt washable marker (left), a Crayola Super Tip washable marker (center), and a Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable fine line marker (right). I ironed the sample on the portion below the dotted line, then threw it in with a load of laundry I was washing in cold water. The Crayola Ultra-Clean marker washed out completely, but the other two left stains, especially where they were ironed.

I don’t know whether or not Crayola marker inks contain any chemicals that will corrode metal over time, so the safest option is to choose fineliner pens that do not contain any metal in areas that are in contact with the ink.

I did geek out and test the pH of the Crayola Ultra-Clean marker ink, since the only thing that Crayola says regarding the pH is that most of their products are not acid-free, and I was worried the marker ink might be really acidic. In case you would like to know, here are the results of my pH tests:

pH of Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Marker Ink
Red 6.5
Orange 6.6
Sandy Tan 6.8
Yellow 6.7
Green 6.4
Blue Lagoon 6.6
Blue 6.2
Violet (Purple) 5.8
Pink 6.7
Brown 6.0
Gray 6.5
Black 6.0

I’m not sure what the pH will tell you, other than the marker inks are all slightly acidic (but not acidic enough that I would worry about using them on fabric). Purple had the lowest pH, so perhaps it might be more prone to corrode metal pen parts. But who knows, it might be fine. I have an older purple Crayola Ultra-Clean washable marker that is a slightly different color than the one in my newest set, so apparently Crayola changes their ink formulas sometimes. Don’t count on your markers being the same as the ones I bought this year.

Most fineliner pens have metal around the tip, so even though it may be risky to use these pens, I will show you how to put marker ink into a few of these types, in case you want to try it. If you try a pen with metal on the tip, I recommend that you periodically check for visible corrosion on the tip, and test wash a marked scrap of fabric now and then to make sure the ink is still completely washable (rust will leave permanent stains on fabric). Keep in mind the chemical formula for each ink color is different, so just because one color is safe doesn’t mean the others are. Also keep in mind Crayola could change their ink formulas in the future.

I haven’t had any problems with my metal tipped pens yet, but it’s only been a few weeks, and I haven’t tried every color in every type of pen. If you have a problem with corrosion on your pen tip, please leave a comment at the end of this post with the pen type and ink color you used so others will know what to avoid. Also, if you are reading this in, say, the year 2021 or later, and want an update on how my metal-tipped pens have fared over time, leave a comment asking me for an update.

Before we get started with instructions for each of the pens you can convert to washable ink, here are some tips and cautions for washable fabric markers/pens:

  • Maybe this first one is obvious, but only use washable fabric markers or pens on items that will be washed in water.
  • Don’t use washable markers/pens on fusible interfacing or fabric that will be fused to interfacing, since the ink will mix with the interfacing adhesive and set in permanently.
  • While I personally use these washable markers and pens with abandon on everything I sew, I do recommend that you test before using them on a special project or an unusual fabric, just to be safe.
  • Crayola Ultra-Clean marker ink washes out best from fabric made from plant fibers or synthetic fibers (cotton, linen, polyester, rayon, etc.). Be sure to test before using them on silk, wool, or other animal fibers. I do not hesitate to use these washable pens on washable silk or wool, but I am extra careful to mark lightly. Fine tipped pens are better than markers for silk and wool, since they put less ink into the fabric. On fabrics that stain more easily, it may help to soak the garment in plain cold water before washing with detergent. If marks remain where you saturated the fabric with too much ink, a second wash usually gets them out.
  • Mark your fabric lightly. Don’t press hard or saturate the fabric with marker ink, or it will be harder to wash out.
  • Porous plastic point pen tips are fragile (don’t drop your pen on the tip!) and like felt-tip markers, they wear down with use, so pressing lightly when you use your pens will prolong the life of the pen tip.
  • If you use washable marker ink on areas that will be enclosed inside bulky seams or places that will be covered in dense stitching (such as buttonholes), it may take several washes to get the ink out. It will eventually wash out, though. You can speed up the process by soaking the garment and then spraying the inky area with high pressure water from a hose or vegetable sprayer.
  • Don’t iron your fabric immediately after marking it, while the ink is still wet. Wait a few minutes for the ink to dry before ironing. Ironing immediately may set in ink stains.
  • The longer the ink sits on fabric, the harder it is to wash out. It is best to use washable markers on projects you will finish within a few days. If the ink remains on the fabric longer, you may need multiple washes, warmer water, and/or oxygen bleach to get the marks out completely.
  • It takes a fair amount of agitation to wash out the marker ink. One regular washing machine cycle is usually plenty, but if you are hand washing your item, it may take a while to get the ink out. Soaking helps.
  • Store your fineliner pens or markers point down. If that’s not convenient, get them out before you use them and set them point down in a cup for a while to help the ink flow toward the tip.
  • Crayola washable marker ink tends to dry out fairly quickly on the tip of porous plastic tipped pens, so cap your washable pen as soon as you are done using it. If your pen stops writing, a quick scribble on a piece of paper will usually get the ink flowing again. If your pen needs a little more help after not being used for a while or after being left uncapped, briefly dip the tip in water, then blot the tip on a paper towel or fabric scrap.

OK, lets get started making a washable fabric marking pen! I’ll show you how to convert seven different types of pens, so you can use whichever type you prefer.

There are some steps that are the same for each type of pen, so lets go over those first.

You will need to remove the ink reservoir, which is a flexible plastic tube filled with polyester fibers and ink, from the Crayola marker. You should either wear disposable gloves or wash your hands well before handling the ink reservoir. The ink has biocides in it to prevent mold and bacteria growth, but it is best not to risk contaminating it. I’ve had my kids’ markers get moldy before, and at that point there is nothing to do but throw them out.

To remove the marker’s ink reservoir, you can either pull the end cap off with pliers (it will get smooshed, but you will be throwing it away anyway) or use a large pair of sharp scissors to wiggle off the end cap. Remove the fibrous cylinder that contains ink from inside the marker.


You will need pen flush to clean the original ink out of most of the pens. Here is the recipe:

Pen Flush

½ cup (100 ml) unscented household ammonia
1 cup (200 ml) distilled water
2 drops dish detergent for hand washing dishes (washing up liquid, for those of you in the UK)
Mix the ingredients together and store sealed in a jar.

Some of the fineliner pens don’t need pen flush to clean the original ink out, so check the directions for the specific pen you are converting. Also, even in the same type of pen, some colors of ink clean out more easily than others. You may only need to use water with a couple of drops of dish detergent to clean some of the pens. I mention this since I’m writing this blog post during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are buying out cleaning products, and ammonia can be hard to come by. An ammonia-containing window cleaner used undiluted might work instead of pen flush, too (I haven’t tried it, though).

*** Safety Tip ***  Remember, don’t mix ammonia and bleach! After putting ammonia down your drain, flush plenty of plain water down the drain to get the ammonia out of the P-trap before scrubbing those ink stains out of your sink with a cleanser containing bleach.

You will need a bulb syringe* (aka nasal aspirator, ear syringe, snot sucker) to clean your pen. If you are using the type of bulb syringe that doesn’t open up for cleaning, use a new one (boogers and ear wax are bad for pens!). If you have one that can be opened up for cleaning, make sure it has been cleaned well before using it on your pen.

Below is a photo of a muslin test swatch of the washable pens I have currently. There are some slight differences in line width. I would say the Clover extra-fine air erasable pens and the uni-ball onyx eco micro pens made the finest lines (though there’s not a whole lot of difference—maybe a tenth of a millimeter). The Staedtler triplus pens had the widest lines and most consistent flow when stored point up, but storing any of the pens point down will improve their ink flow.

You can see that the pen lines are almost as fine as the width of a piece of thread—perfect for those times when you need to mark the exact location of a stitching line. The last two are Crayola fine line markers for comparison.

And here’s proof that the ink washes out. I ironed the section of the ink lines on the right, and it made no difference. I didn’t even bother to rinse or soak it—I just threw the test swatch in with a load of laundry. No trace of any of the colors remains.

I purchased all of the pens below in late 2019 and early 2020. Keep in mind manufacturers could change the design of their pens in the future, so the exact instructions below may need some alteration for different pen designs. Also, I’m sure there are other types of pens that will work. Hopefully the instructions below will give you ideas for how to convert other types of fineliner pens. I tried to pick some pens that are commonly available.


Clover Extra-Fine Air Erasable Pen

Clover Extra-Fine Air Erasable Pens are my top pick for converting to a washable ink pen. They are well-made pens with a very fine tip and no metal parts (so there is no possibility of the ink corroding the pen tip). They are easy to take apart and the original ink flushes out easily with plain water. They cost more than any of the other pens, but as long as you don’t damage the pen tip, you should be able to refill the same pen several times.

You will need:

Clover Extra-Fine Air Erasable Pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pliers
Small plastic straws and/or plastic tape
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Metric ruler
Scissors
Paper towel

Use pliers to pull the end cap off the end of the Clover pen.

Remove the ink reservoir from inside the pen. If it is not dried out and you would like to save it to refill another air-erasable pen, wrap it in plastic wrap or a plastic sandwich bag, then foil, to keep it from drying out.

Take the pen to a sink. Wash out the cap and end cap, shake out the water, and set these parts aside. Suck up lukewarm water into the bulb syringe and firmly push the tip into the open end of the pen body. Hold the pen vertically with the tip of the pen near the bottom of the sink and squeeze the bulb to push water through the pen tip. Keep flushing water through the pen until the tip of the pen appears white, with no visible ink.

Shake excess water out of the pen and gently dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel.

The Crayola marker ink reservoir is longer and smaller in diameter than the Clover ink reservoir. Since the Crayola ink reservoir has a smaller diameter, it will actually fit inside the opening in the end cap rather than butting up against the end of it, so luckily you don’t need to cut it shorter. You do, however, need to add a small spacer inside the end cap to keep the ink reservoir sitting in the right place.

I made a spacer by taping together three plastic straws that cheap off-brand cotton swabs are made from. You could also use small clean drink stirring straws, a bit of aquarium tubing, or just roll up some plastic tape until it is the right diameter to fit inside the end cap.

Cut your spacer to be 5 mm long, and push it all the way down into the end of the pen end cap.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker and push it down inside the Clover pen. Put the end cap on, making sure the ink reservoir sits inside the end cap as you put it on. Firmly push the end cap in place. You may need to bang the end of the pen on a table to get the end cap to snap in place.

Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until the ink comes out of the tip.

Add a label to the pen.


Sakura Kakikata Fine Tip Fineliner Pen

Sakura Kakikata fine tip pens are my second choice for converting to a washable ink pen. Other than the Clover air-erasable pen, it is the only other metal-free fineliner pen I could find that I was able to clean the ink out of.

You will need:

Sakura Kakikata Fine Tip Fineliner Pen. The fine tipped pens in this set of Sakura pens* appear to be the same type of pen.
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above)
Awl or similar pointy object
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Scissors or razor knife
Cotton swabs
Paper towel

Remove the cap from the Sakura pen. Use an awl to carefully push off the tip of the pen. There are small indentations that you can get the tip of the awl into. After the tip comes part way off, pull it the rest of the way off with your fingers.

Tap the open end of the body of the pen on a paper towel set on a table to remove the ink reservoir and the plastic spacer tube. Set the ink reservoir aside, but don’t discard it yet.

Wash out the body of the pen, the spacer tube, and the cap with pen flush. Use a cotton swab to wipe out ink if needed. Rinse these pen parts, then shake off excess water and set them aside.

Fill the bulb syringe with lukewarm water. Push the pen tip onto the end of the bulb syringe and flush water through it. Flip the tip around, and flush water back through the other way. Suck up some pen flush, and flush that through the tip until it looks white/clear. If you see any ink still in the tip, drop the pen tip into your jar of pen flush and soak it for an hour or two. Flush the tip again with pen flush, then water. Dab the tip onto a paper towel to verify than no ink comes out from inside the tip.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker.

Line up the end of the Sakura ink reservoir and the spacer tube. Set the Crayola ink reservoir next to it, aligned with the end of the Sakura ink reservoir. Cut the end of the spacer tube at the point where it is aligned with the end of the Crayola ink reservoir. You need the total length of ink reservoir plus spacer to remain the same.

Put the smaller piece of the spacer tube inside the body of the pen. Insert the Crayola ink reservoir. Push the pen tip firmly back in place.

Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until ink comes out.

Add a label to the pen.

 


Sharpie Pen

Sharpie pens (which are different from Sharpie ultra-fine point permanent markers) can be converted fairly easily to use washable ink. They are porous plastic tip fineliner pens with water-based ink. You can get Sharpie pens in many colors, so you can match the pen colors to ink colors from a set of markers if you like.

You will need:
Sharpie pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above)
Pliers
Awl or similar pointy object
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Cotton swabs
Paper towel

Pull the end cap off of the Sharpie pen with pliers.

Remove the ink reservoir from the pen.

Wash out the pen cap and end cap with pen flush. Rinse them, shake off excess water and set them aside.

Hold the pen body vertically in a sink with the tip near the bottom of the sink. Fill the bulb syringe with lukewarm water, insert it into the open end of the pen, and squeeze it to flush water out through the tip. Hold your fingers over the vent holes near the tip (the places the water shoots out sideways from) to force water out of the tip of the pen as you squeeze the bulb syringe. When the water runs mostly clear, suck up some pen flush into the bulb syringe and flush that through the pen.

Use an awl to pry off the tip of the pen.

Use a cotton swab dipped in pen flush to wipe out the tip end of the pen body. If it looks like there might still be some ink in the tip, put the tip of the pen in the jar of pen flush and let it soak for an hour or two.

Put the tip of the pen up against the bulb syringe and force some more pen flush through it. When it looks clean, flush water through it. Dab the tip on a paper towel to verify that you have gotten all of the ink out.

Put the tip back on the pen.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker.

The Crayola marker ink reservoir is longer and smaller in diameter than the Sharpie pen ink reservoir.

However, it just so happens that if you put the end of the Crayola ink reservoir inside the end cap, the total length is the same as the original ink reservoir plus end cap.

Place the Crayola ink reservoir inside the hollow end cap, then insert the ink reservoir and end cap into the body of the pen. Push the end cap firmly in place.

Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until ink flows out.

Label your new washable fabric pen.

 


Foray Stylemark Pen

Foray Stylemark pens are store brand porous plastic tip pens from Office Depot/OfficeMax. They convert fairly easily to using washable ink.

You will need:
Foray Stylemark Pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above)
Awl or similar pointy object
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Cotton swabs
Paper towel

Remove the pen cap from the Foray Stylemark pen. Using your hands, pull apart the two halves of the pen and remove the ink reservoir.

Wash out the cap and back end of the pen with pen flush, rinse, shake out the excess water, and set aside.

Fill the bulb syringe with lukewarm water. Hold the tip section of the pen vertically, with the tip near the bottom of the sink. Insert the bulb syringe into the open end of the pen and squeeze the bulb to force water through the pen. Be careful, since water will shoot out sideways from three holes near the tip. When the water starts to run clear, hold your fingers over these vent holes as best as you can to force water out of the tip of the pen. When the water starts to look clear, suck up some pen flush into the bulb syringe and switch to flushing pen flush out of the pen tip of the pen, until that runs clear.

Use an awl to pry the tip of the pen off. Place the tip in the jar of pen flush and let it soak for an hour or two. Use a cotton swab dipped in pen flush to wipe out the tip end of the pen body. Rinse it and set it aside.

Put the pen tip directly up against the tip of the bulb syringe, and force more pen flush through it. If you still see some ink in the tip or wick, soak the pen tip in pen flush for an hour or two, then flush it out with the bulb syringe again. When it looks clean, flush water through the tip. Dab it on a paper towel to make sure no ink comes out.

Put the tip back on the pen.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker. It is the same size as the one in the Foray Stylemark pen. Put the Crayola ink reservoir into the lower section of the pen, pushing it gently onto the wick inside. Push the back end of the pen back on.

Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until ink flows out.

Label your new washable fabric pen.

 


Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens come in many colors, so you can match Crayola colors to the pen colors and make a whole set of washable pens. The original ink in these pens is almost washable, and some of the colors can be flushed out of the pen tip with just water.

You will need:

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above). You may not need this for some pen colors.
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Pair of large, sharp scissors
Paper towel

Use your large, sharp pair of scissors to remove the end cap from the Staedtler pen. Close the scissors around the seam at the base of the end cap and hold them just tight enough to get a good grip on the end cap. Wiggle and pull off the end cap, trying not to damage it too much.

Fill the bulb syringe with lukewarm water. Hold the body of the pen vertically with the tip near the bottom of a sink. Insert the bulb syringe into the open end of the pen, and squeeze to force water through the pen. When the water starts to run clear, hold your fingers over the vent holes where the metal tip joins to the plastic pen body as best as you can to force water out of the tip of the pen.

When the pen tip looks white/clear, dab it on a paper towel to see if ink comes out. If there is still a little ink coming out of the pen tip, flush out the pen some more using pen flush, then rinse it with water. If some ink still comes out, soak the pen in pen flush for an hour or two, then flush it again. Some of the colors clean out with just a couple of squirts of plain water, and others will need soaking in pen flush.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker.

The Crayola marker ink reservoir is longer and smaller in diameter than the Staedtler triplus reservoir.

Use scissors or a razor knife to cut the spacer attached to the end cap 1.5 cm shorter to keep the total length of the ink reservoir plus end cap the same.

Place the Crayola ink reservoir inside the pen and push the end cap on firmly. Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until the ink flows out.

Label your new washable fabric pen.

 


Paper Mate Flair Ultra Fine Fineliner Pen

Paper Mate Flair UF pens are my least favorite pen to convert. They are hard to pull apart and put back together, and the tips are quite fragile. I wanted to figure out how to make them work, though, since they are a common pen you might already have on hand. After ruining a couple of pens, I did figure out how to make the conversion work. The original ink in the green pens is fairly washable, so you could actually use a green pen as a washable fabric marking pen if you like (see more discussion on this at the end of this post). Make sure to store these pens point down for best ink flow.

You will need:

Paper Mate Flair Ultra Fine Pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above)
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Two small pieces of grippy shelf liner
Hair dryer
Tape
Metric ruler
Paper towel

Remove the cap from the Paper Mate pen. Heat up the center part of the pen with a hair dryer. Grip each section of the pen with a piece of grippy shelf liner, and pull the two parts of the pen apart. It may help to twist the pen as you start to pull.

Remove the ink reservoir from the pen.

Take your pen over to a sink. Wash out the cap and back end of the pen, shake out the excess water, and set them aside.

Suck up some lukewarm water into the bulb syringe. Firmly insert the tip of the bulb syringe into the open end of the tip section of the pen. With the pen held vertically with the tip near the bottom of the sink, squeeze the bulb to flush water through the pen. Water will shoot out sideways from a vent hole near the tip. Once the water starts to run clear, hold your finger over the vent hole as you squeeze the bulb to force water out through the tip.

When the water runs mostly clear, switch to flushing out the pen with pen flush as you did with water until the tip appears white/clear. You may need to soak the tip in pen flush for an hour or two if you still see some ink in the tip. Rinse by flushing water through the tip. Dab the tip on a paper towel to verify that no more ink is flowing out of the tip.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker.

The Crayola marker ink reservoir is longer and smaller in diameter than the Paper Mate reservoir, but you can get it to fit in the Paper Mate pen. To get the ink reservoir to stay in the right place inside the pen, wrap a piece of tape with one edge exactly 4.5 cm from one end of the Crayola ink reservoir, as shown below. Wrap the tape until it is the right diameter to fit snugly inside the tip section of the pen. The tape wrapped ink reservoir should fit snugly enough inside the pen to keep the ink reservoir in position, but it should not be so tight that you crush the reservoir as you insert it.

Insert the ink reservoir so that exactly 4.5 cm of the ink reservoir is inside the tip section of the pen. The edge of the tape will be flush with the edge of the pen section.

Push the back end of the pen onto the tip section. Hold the tip section of the pen with a piece of grippy shelf liner, being careful not to touch the tip, and bang the back end of the pen on a table until it snaps completely into place. You may need to heat the back end of the pen with a hair dryer first.

Dab the tip of the pen on a paper towel until the ink flows out.

Label your new washable fabric pen.

 


Uni-ball Onyx Eco Micro Point (0.5 mm) Rollerball Pens

Uni-ball Onyx micro point pens are rollerball pens, which have a metal rolling ball tip similar to ball point pens, but they use liquid ink in a marker style fibrous reservoir, so they will write well on most fabric. They require just a little more pressure to write with, though, and will not write quite as well as fineliner pens on really stretchy or flimsy fabric.

Note that I am specifically recommending the eco version of this pen, because the recycled plastic is softer, making it easier to get the end cap off. The tips on these rollerball pens are sturdier than the plastic point fineliner tips, so if you tend to write with a lot of pressure, or drop your pens a lot, these might be the best option. They write with a slightly finer line than any of the other pens.

You will need:

Uni-ball Onyx eco micro point (0.5 mm) rollerball pen*
Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean washable marker*
Pen flush (see recipe above)
Disposable gloves (or just make sure to wash your hands well before and after touching the ink)
Bulb syringe
Awl or similar pointy object
Scissors or razor knife
Paper towel

Use an awl to carefully pry off the end cap from the Uni-ball pen.

Remove the ink reservoir and set it aside, but don’t discard it yet.

Take the pen over to a sink. Wash the pen cap and end cap, shake off the excess water, and set them aside.

Fill a bulb syringe with lukewarm water and push it into the open end of the pen. Hold the pen vertically over the sink, with the pen tip near the bottom of the sink, and squeeze the bulb to force water through the pen. Water will shoot out sideways from the vent hole near the tip of the pen.

After flushing some water through the pen, suck up some pen flush into the bulb syringe. Force some pen flush through the pen. When the liquid coming out of the pen is mostly clear, use your finger to block the vent hole near the tip so liquid is forced out through the tip of the pen.

Only a tiny amount of liquid can come out of the tip at a time, so just keep up a steady pressure on the bulb while covering the vent hole with your finger. Eventually a drip will come out. It can help to dab the tip onto a paper towel as you do this so you can see that a little liquid is indeed coming out. Keep this up until the pen flush coming out of the tip is completely clear. It will take a few minutes.

Dab the pen tip on a paper towel to verify that only clear liquid is coming out. Flush out the pen with plain water, then shake out the excess water.

Remove the ink reservoir from the Crayola marker.

The ink reservoir from the Crayola marker is longer and smaller in diameter than the Uni-ball ink reservoir, but it will work fine if you shorten the end cap.

Line up the Uni-ball ink reservoir and the end cap. Set the Crayola ink reservoir next to it, aligned with the end of the Uni-ball ink reservoir. Cut off the bottom of the end cap at the point where it is aligned with the end of the Crayola ink reservoir. It is made from soft plastic and can be cut easily with sharp scissors or a razor knife. You need the total length of ink reservoir plus end cap to remain the same.

Place the Crayola ink reservoir inside the pen and push the end cap on completely.

Dab the pen tip on a paper towel until ink comes out. The water comes out slowly, so this will take a while. You might also need to scribble on a piece of paper. Eventually the ink will start flowing out.

Label your new washable fabric pen.

 



For the record, here are the other pens I tried first before transplanting Crayola Ultra-Clean washable marker ink into fineliner pens. Nothing else I tried worked as well as a pen with Crayola Ultra-Clean ink, but some of the other pens I tried might be an option for you if you don’t want the hassle of putting together your own pen.

The first thing I discovered was that my perfect fine-line fabric marking tool needed to be a pen, not a pencil, since pencils will not mark on stretchy knit fabric. I tried all of the various fine point pens in my house, and the only ones that marked well on all types of fabric were porous plastic point fineliner pens and liquid ink rollerball pens. Of course, none of them had washable ink.

The first type of washable pen I tried was putting “washable” fountain pen ink* in a refillable rollerball pen*. Unfortunately, I discovered that washable fountain pen ink isn’t actually all that washable, and it can bleed a lot when used on some fabric. While you can wash most of the ink out, it leaves stains, especially after being ironed. My first thought when looking for a fine point washable ink pen was that I would mostly want it for marking stitching lines on a muslin. Then I could wash the fabric and re-use it, so slight stains would be OK. This pen/ink combination would actually work for that, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted a truly washable pen for marking finished garments, too.

This fountain pen ink experiment did lead to me picking up fountain pens as another hobby, though, and I’m having lots of fun with them. They write so much smoother than even a high quality rollerball pen. If you want to try writing with a fountain pen, I would suggest starting with a Pilot Kakuno* or Pilot Metropolitan* with a size medium nib. They do require some upkeep. The cleaning techniques I learned for my fountain pens (flushing with pen flush using a bulb syringe) helped me figure out how to clean the ink out of a fineliner pen, too, so at least that project wasn’t a wasted effort.

After deciding washable fountain pen ink wasn’t what I wanted for marking fabric I did some research to see if my perfect pen was something that had recently come out on the market and I’d just missed it. I tried ibotti washable fabric marking pens*, which sounded like exactly what I wanted, but after testing them I discovered that the ink in these pens is set in by the heat of an iron. A second heavy duty wash with hot water and lots of oxygen bleach did finally get the stains out of my sample fabric, but these pens are not nearly as washable as Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers, and I would hesitate to use them on the right side of a garment. I might use these to mark the stitching lines and other marks on a muslin so I could wash the fabric and re-use it to make another muslin. You could probably use them on the wrong side of your garment fabric, as long as it’s not thin fabric or white fabric, and you mark lightly. And if you won’t be ironing over the marks, they would work OK. These pens make a wider line than the fineliner pens I altered, so they don’t really offer any advantage over Crayola fine line washable markers, which wash out better. I don’t recommend these pens.

I saw that you can get air erasable and water erasable extra-fine point pens, but neither of these are what I want. I don’t want marks that are going to disappear before I’m done with them. Air erasable and water erasable pens contain a chemical that becomes transparent when exposed to water or water vapor in the air, so you never know how long the marks will last—it depends on the current humidity. I tried Dritz air-erasable markers many years ago, but they dried up so quickly I quit using them.

I bought a Clover extra-fine point air-erasable pen*. I actually bought mine specifically to see if I could convert it to a washable ink pen, since it has a super fine plastic tip, but I thought an air-erasable pen might be handy on occasion, too. These look like a good marking pen to use when you only need temporary marks. The directions say to wet the marks with plain water or let them disappear over time before ironing or washing with detergent, or the marks can set in permanently. I tested this on muslin. Ironing with steam made marks that had disappeared come back, but they still washed out on my muslin test sample. So ironing might or might not be an issue. You’ll have to test that yourself. There could be a lot of factors affecting how well the ink washes out, such as fabric type, how dark your mark is, iron temperature, what laundry products you use, etc.

Clover air-erasable pens are a nice special purpose marking tool, but they have two major drawbacks: 1) the marks fade with time and can disappear before you are done with them and 2) they dry up quickly. They are also relatively expensive. And although I haven’t had a problem yet, some people say that sometimes the marks set in and are hard to get out. They are nice for some tasks but are still not my perfect everyday fabric marking tool. The cool thing about these pens is that after the original ink is used up your pen doesn’t need to go to waste! Extra-fine Clover air-erasable pens are the perfect pen to flush out and put Crayola Ultra-Clean washable ink in. I bought two Clover pens. I converted one to use washable ink, and I wrapped up the original ink reservoir in plastic wrap and foil so I could save it to use to refill the second air-erasable pen when it runs dry. That way I get to use both types of pens, and I’m not throwing away any expensive ink.

Heat erasable pens, such as Frixion pens*, aren’t what I want either. All of the other brands of heat-erasable pens* I looked at that are specifically intended for use on fabric made wider 1 mm lines (about the same as a Crayola fine line marker), which is too wide for my purposes. The marks don’t actually go away when heated, they just change color, usually to off-white, so they can leave slightly visible marks, even after washing, especially on dark fabric. People often refer to this as “bleaching” on dark fabric but it is actually just a white ink stain.

I have found that marks from heat erasable pens only wash out completely if they have not been ironed (which is also what happens with most washable markers—the stains are set in by heat). Also, I nearly always end up accidentally ironing my marks away while I still need them. Another drawback is that if the marks don’t wash out all the way, they can return to their original color if they are exposed to below freezing temperatures. I’m not sure why heat erasable and air/water erasable pens are so popular. In my opinion, neither of these types of pen are good for marking fabric for garment sewing. I’m sure they are good for certain specific things, but neither work for me as everyday fabric marking pens.

I found references to quilters using green (only the green!) Papermate Flair pens to mark the stitching lines on their quilt tops. I bought some Ultra-Fine point Flair pens* to try, and I found that the green pens really are surprisingly washable (I verified that the other colors are not washable). I would say the green Flair pens are more washable than the ibotti pens, since in my test the green Flair pen marks did not seem to be set in by the heat of an iron. Green Flair pens are not as washable as Crayola Ultra-Clean markers, but they are better than other pens I tried. When I marked on muslin, light marks washed out with a single cold wash, but the darker marks left faint stains. A second heavy-duty wash with warm or hot water and oxygen bleach would probably get the darker marks out. I would consider using green Flair pens sparingly on the right side of a garment (but probably not on white fabric) if I hadn’t come up with better options. The downside to using Flair pens is that only the green pens are washable, so you only have one color to use.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner* pens claim to “wash out of most fabric” so I gave them a try. I tested them on white cotton jersey first. I ironed half the marks. After one cold wash, I wasn’t impressed. Significant stains were left, especially where I ironed over the marks, and I wondered how they could possibly claim that these pens were in any way washable. I tested again on muslin, and again there was significant staining after one cold wash. However, after a second wash on a heavy-duty hot wash cycle with lots of oxygen bleach, all but the red washed out completely. I would classify these as almost washable. I wouldn’t recommend using these pens to mark fabric.

Crayola Take Note Washable Gel Pens* Since these are gel pens, not liquid ink pens, they require more friction on the tip to write and will only write on stable woven fabric. You can put a few dots on knit fabric, but you can’t draw a continuous line. Some colors (mainly red and colors with red dye in them such as purple, orange, and pink) are set in by the heat of an iron. All of the colors washed out if they were not ironed, and were washed in cold water. I don’t suggest that you buy these for the purpose of marking fabric, since there are better options, and many of the colors stain if ironed, but if you have some already, you could test and see if some of the colors are washable enough (maybe light green and light blue). Make sure to iron your test marks, since ironing sets in many of the colors.

Crayola Take Note Felt Tip Pens* These are labeled as washable, but the ink is set in by ironing. They also make a broader mark on fabric than Crayola Fine Line markers. I don’t recommend these for marking fabric.

One last thing: Since laundry products can affect how well the marks wash out, I’ll let you know what I use in case it makes a difference. I only use Charlies Soap Powdered laundry detergent*, which I dissolve in hot water before adding to the washing machine (like any powdered detergent, it can cake up in cold water). This is the best laundry detergent ever, and every time I mention it I have to restrain myself from writing several paragraphs on how great it is. It cleans your clothes, then completely WASHES OUT, which is necessary for those of us with sensitive skin, and for washing items that need to remain absorbent and residue-free, like cloth diapers and cloth menstrual pads. Most laundry detergents intentionally leave all kinds of chemical residue on your clothes (optical brighteners, fabric softeners, scent, etc.). Sometimes I use pure Sodium Percarbonate* (the active ingredient in oxygen bleach). I never use laundry products that leave a residue on clothes, which includes most laundry detergents, fabric softeners, oxygen bleaches, and dryer sheets. In addition to irritating sensitive skin, those residues can help hold in stains, which is why I’m mentioning it. Crayola Ultra-Clean washable marker ink is so washable I doubt your choice of laundry products will matter, but it might be a factor if you try other washable pens.

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Posted in Sewing

How to Accurately Mark Dark Fabric with Soap

I was so happy when I discovered using Crayola Ultra-Clean Fine Line Washable Markers to mark fabric. They work so much better than the fabric markers and pencils available at fabric stores. These markers changed my life. Seriously, they did. But of course, they don’t show up on dark colored fabric.

The main challenge I’ve had with marking on dark fabric is finding a tool that I can use to smoothly and quickly trace around a pattern onto dark colored knit fabric without stretching or snagging on the fabric. I finally realized the solution is to use soap slivers, probably something my great grandmother used to mark fabric! I can’t believe I’ve been ignoring such an obvious solution for so many years. I thought soap would make an imprecise tool at best, but I’ve discovered that I can get a nice crisp line by marking against the edge of a piece of paper.

Pattern traced soap sliver

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you). If you see CA* and/or UK* after a link, these are links to the same or similar products on the Canada and UK Amazon sites.

I had read a tip about marking fabric with soap slivers many years ago. I got out a little bar of hard hotel soap, tried using it to mark fabric, said, “Yep, it leaves a mark on dark fabric,” put it in my drawer of marking tools, and never got it back out. The reason I never used it is I thought it made wide, fuzzy marks that wouldn’t be of much use. But, as I’ve discovered, there are ways to use soap to get a nice sharp line!

There are two tricks to getting precise marks with soap. First, you need a piece of soap the right shape. If you use regular bar soap, the thin soap sliver you are left with when the bar is almost used up is a pretty good shape. The soap sliver should be about 5mm (3/16″) thick. Let it dry completely before using it to mark fabric.

Soap sliver on washcloth

If you don’t use bar soap, and don’t want to use someone else’s old soap sliver, you can use a small saw to cut a piece of hard bar soap to about the size and shape of a piece of tailor’s chalk. You want your piece of soap to be about 5mm (3/16″) thick.

Not all types of bar soap will leave good marks on fabric. The little bars of hard soap you get at hotels work well for marking fabric. If you don’t have one of those, I recommend using hard bar soap such as Kirk’s Castile Bar Soap* (CA*, UK*) or Dr. Bronner’s Castile Bar Soap* (CA*, UK*). Dr. Bronner’s bar soap has a better shape for cutting into slices. If you are going to cut a bar of soap, start with a fresh, unused bar so it crumbles less.

Cutting soap with saw

To cut this round hotel soap, I cut off one side to give me a flat surface, then sawed the bar in half to make a thinner piece.

Cutting round soap

You can sharpen and bevel the edges of your soap sliver by rubbing the soap on fine sandpaper. Use an old toothbrush to brush the soap residue off of the sandpaper, and you can keep re-using the same piece of sandpaper.

Sharpening soap with sandpaper

I tried cutting soap with a serrated knife, and it mostly just crumbled, but I got some small usable pieces. So if you don’t have a saw, you can try cutting or shaving soap with a knife. If you are starting with a small bar of hotel soap, you could also try using a cheese grater to make the bar thinner or bevel one side to get a sharp edge. You can sand the soap pieces with sandpaper to shape them further.

The second trick to getting a good line with a soap sliver is to use it up against a piece of paper. That way your line can be any width, but you know to use the nice sharp edge of the line that was against the paper as your guide. If you like you can make some stray marks on the fuzzy side of the line to remind you which is the correct edge of the line to reference.

If you are tracing around a pattern, it’s easy to remember which is the correct side of the line to reference, since you will be cutting off the soap marks. However, for marks on the interior of your pattern, you need to keep track of which side of the line was against the paper.

In the picture below, the line on the left was drawn freehand, and the other two were drawn against a piece of paper. On the line on the right, I drew some stray marks to remind me that the other side of the line is where the actual reference line is. So, with these thicker soap lines, the center of the line isn’t what you look at, it’s one edge of the line that matters.

 

Soap lines on fabric

I found that marking against paper about the weight of regular printer paper works best, but you can also trace around a tissue paper pattern if you are careful.

Marking against a ruler doesn’t work, since the blunt edge of the soap can’t get up against the ruler. When you use paper, the soap rides over the edge of the paper, giving you a nice sharp line on your fabric.

I usually go over my line a couple of times to make sure I have a good visible line, but this goes quickly since the soap glides so smoothly over the fabric.

To mark a dart, I find the easiest way is to cut along one leg of the dart on the pattern and fold it open. Trace along the edges of the dart legs with soap, and remember that the outside edges of the soap marks are the actual stitching line. Even if your soap line is a quarter inch wide, you still have a perfectly accurate stitching line, because the edge of the line that was against the paper is your stitching line.

If you are cutting your fabric on the fold or double layered, mark the ends of the dart legs and the dart apex with pins or tailor’s tacks, then flip the fabric over and mark the other side, using the pattern as a guide.

Marking a dart

Marked dart

 

For comparison, here are the other marking tools I tried previously to mark dark fabric. None of them work as well as soap!

I tried putting cornstarch in a sock to make a DIY pounce pad, and while that worked, it was really messy and the powder ended up spreading everywhere, so I’d rather not try that again.

White Clover Chaco Liners* (CA*, UK*) are great marking tools, but they have some limitations. I use them frequently to mark dart lines and such on dark fabric, but they are easier to use to mark straight lines than to trace around curved pattern pieces. The chalk lines brush away easily, but if you rub your finger along the chalk line right after you draw it, it helps rub the loose chalk into the fabric so it won’t brush off as easily. While I can use Chaco liners to trace around a pattern onto fabric, I have to work slowly to avoid stretching out knit fabric. I usually have to go over the same area multiple times while carefully holding down the fabric to keep it from stretching, and even then the marks are not always as visible as I would like.

I tried regular clay tailor’s chalk, which works a little better than a Chaco Liner for tracing around a curved pattern onto knit fabric. It doesn’t glide smoothly, so I still have to work slowly to avoid stretching out the fabric, but the marks are more visible than the Chaco Liner marks, which is good. The main problem I have with chalk, though, is I really don’t like touching chalk. The feel of the dust on my fingers brings me back to third grade and that kid that liked to scrape his fingernails down the chalkboard . . . shudder.

I’ve been using white china markers* (CA*, UK*) to mark notches on knit fabric, since I don’t like to clip into knits to mark the notches, especially when I have quarter inch seam allowances. The marks seem to wash out just fine, but I still use these grease pencils sparingly and only in the seam allowances, just in case. These marks are more visible than chalk marks, and they don’t brush away. While china markers work to trace around a pattern onto woven fabric if your pattern is on sturdy paper, I find they don’t work at all to trace a pattern onto stretchy knit fabric.

So tailor’s chalk was the best option I knew of, but I kept wishing it would glide more smoothly, and I wondered if the wax based chalk tailors use would be better. I almost ordered some, but that was when I remembered soap slivers!

All these years, and the perfect solution has been in my house the whole time. Unlike chalk, soap glides smoothly over both woven and knit fabric, it leaves nice visible lines that don’t brush away easily, and since it’s soap, I know the marks are going to wash out! Tracing around a pattern with soap is much faster and easier than anything else I’ve tried.

 

 

 

Posted in Sewing

Free Printable Combination French Curve

I was using my printable French curves while working on a sewing pattern, and I found it useful to use two different sizes of curves. I kept losing one and having to search through the layers of pattern pieces on my table to find the curve I needed. Finally it occurred to me that I could combine the two sizes into one, so I at least would only have one tool to lose.

I put three of my curves together, traced them onto a clear plastic sheet I’d saved from some packaging, and came up with this:

I figured other people would also find this tool useful, so I put together a pdf of similar combination French curves. There are four pages to the pdf. The first two pages are for two curves marked in inches (they are mirror images). Pages 3–4 are for curves marked in centimeters. As before, I left off adding numbers, so you can label them where you like after you print them.

Since these curves are larger, they won’t fit on one piece of paper, so you will have to trim off one of the borders and tape or glue the sheets together.

To print to scale, make sure to print from Adobe Acrobat Reader or another dedicated pdf reader, not a web browser. Choose the option for printing “actual size” or “100%” or “no scaling” (the wording will vary depending on which software you are using). You can also print them at a scale of 50% for half scale or to another scale if you are doing small scale exercises. The inner curves are actually half scale versions of the outer curves, by the way.

To make a curve with labels on both sides, I printed out a set of mirror image curves onto heavy paper, cut them out, and glued them back to back. I labeled them so that the numbers were in the same spot on the front and the back.

Posted in Uncategorized

Free Printable Tailor’s Square

Printable_L-SquareOne of my readers was inspired by my free printable French curves to create a printable pattern drafting tool of her own, which she would like to share with you.

Here is a printable tailor’s L-square, courtesy of Eva Mendoza. To make the ruler, print out the sheets at actual size. When printed to the correct scale, the border around each sheet should measure 7 inches by 10 inches.

Trim along the borders as needed, and carefully glue or tape the sheets together, checking the alignment marks and numbers on the ruler to make sure you are taping the right sheets together.

There are separate files for the front and the back, so you can print both and glue them together, keep them separate, or just use one or the other if you don’t need both sides.

14 x 24 Printable Tailor’s Square Ruler

14 x 24 Tailor’s Square Ruler (Back)

Print

Posted in Patternmaking

Three Blackwood Cardigans – A Brutally Honest Review

I needed to make some new sweaters or sweatshirts to wear around the house. After considering several different cardigan and sweatshirt patterns, I decided on the popular Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan pattern. This pattern had the features I wanted, but I also chose it because I’m a fan of the Love to Sew podcast, which Helen co-hosts with Caroline of Blackbird Fabrics, so I like to do what I can to support the hosts’ businesses.

When I first saw the Blackwood cardigan pattern, I dismissed it as something I would never wear, since I mostly saw people making the long version. I’m 5’2″ tall so, a long cardigan would be overwhelming on me. I also don’t like a lot of weight hanging off my shoulders. I had looked at the shorter view, but I thought it looked too boxy.

However, I finally tried the short version anyway, and once I saw the finished garment on myself, I don’t think it looks boxy. I also wasn’t sure that a cardigan worn open would keep me warm, but I found that it does keep me warm enough, and I like how it shows off the top you have on underneath. So I’ve been a little slow to join the Blackwood fan club, but now I’m a convert.

I decided to live dangerously, and I made my first Blackwood out of some navy blue wool French terry that had slightly less than the recommended amount of stretch. I started with one size up from what my measurements called for, did a full bust adjustment**, a full butt adjustment, my usual amount of shortening, and straightened the sleeve seam to give me a little more elbow room. I also made some pattern corrections to the armholes and sleeves, which I describe later in this post.

**Helen includes a copy of her guide to FBA’s on knits with the pattern. I chose to combine two of the methods (the two shown in this blog post) which worked quite well. I converted half of the bust dart to ease at the side seam, and then used the method that curves the lower hem to get rid of the rest of the bust dart.

You can’t see much of my navy cardigan, since it’s such a dark color, but here it is. The bottom edge hits me just below hip level, which is longer than I was anticipating, but I guess longer keeps me warmer, right?

I was quite pleased with my first Blackwood, but I don’t like to wear wool sweaters except on really cold days (they make me break out in a cold sweat, and then there’s the scratchiness) so I made two more in cotton fabrics. For the next two, I went a size narrower at the shoulders, which I think looks better on me. Plus I used fabric with more stretch, which made them more comfortable.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I will earn a small commission.

For the second cardigan, I combined three different scraps of unbleached cotton. The body of the sweater is made from some thick, cozy fleece, the sleeves from a waffle knit, and the bands are made from 2×2 ribbing from Organic Cotton Plus*.

Here’s a close-up of the three different fabrics I used. This cardigan is so softy and cozy I want to wear it every day.

For my third Blackwood I used some pink cotton velour. I shortened this one to hit me above the hip, and also shortened the lower band. This one is cute and would look nice over a dress.

Sewing velour is pretty frustrating, but it’s worth it in the end. I had to glue baste with washable glue stick in several places, and I had to hand baste the sleeve bands, because I couldn’t get the fabric to stay in place with pins or Wonder clips. Even though sewing velour is a pain, I sort of want to make a cotton velour Blackwood in every color.

Hmm . . . and now I’m wondering how a three-quarter length sleeve or short sleeve version would look. Just a little something to wear over a sleeveless summer dress. I’ll have to re-visit that idea in a few months when the weather warms up.

I felt a little guilty making my cardigan out of this velour, since I originally intended to use it to make a dress for my daughter, but I did manage to squeeze a T-shirt for her out of the scraps.

There is this weird nicey-nice culture around sewing blogs, where people tend to gloss over pattern issues and glowingly praise every pattern, no matter how poorly drafted it is. Frankly, the pattern drafting on most home sewing patterns, whether they are big 4 or indie patterns, isn’t that great.

I’ve found myself not writing blog posts about some things I’ve sewn, since I had so many problems with them, and I hesitated to say anything negative here, because I don’t like reading negative stuff, and I’m guessing you don’t either. I’ve decided that from here on I’m going to honestly and frankly point out the problems I run into with patterns, and if I can, show you how to fix them.

I’m not doing it to be mean, but to help people. If you ask me, it is mean and hurtful to NOT point out problems you find in a pattern, because you might lead a beginning sewer to try a pattern that needs significant pattern corrections to even sew together. Plus, you never know, the pattern designer might read your review and do a better job on their next pattern.

Since learning to draft sewing patterns, I always check the sleeves and armholes on commercial sewing patterns. There is almost always something wrong with them. Luckily, with this pattern, the shape of the armhole and sleeve cap are very nice (probably the best I’ve seen on a pattern for a knit top, actually), but there are some things that need to be corrected. The sleeve is twisted, the front armhole is too large, and the front armhole notch is in the wrong place. I checked this on size 10 and on size 20, and I found the same problems on both sizes, so there’s a good chance that all sizes have these problems.

Helen, the pattern designer, recently re-released this pattern with a larger size range. She mentioned removing some excess fabric width in the front armhole area, and this must have been a last minute alteration, because she apparently did not make alterations to the notches, etc. after doing this, which I am guessing caused some of the problems with the sleeves and armholes. These are relatively minor problems, but I think they are worth correcting, especially the front armhole notch issue.

I should add that I am not specifically picking on this pattern designer. Overall, this pattern is drafted better than most home sewing patterns I’ve tried. I’ve just decided I’m tired of all the dishonest praise fangirls post on their sewing blogs, and I’m going to start pointing out the issues I find on every pattern that I review, even those I really like.

Here’s how to correct the issues I found with this pattern. Ideally, you should make these corrections before you make any other fit alterations to the pattern, but they can also be made later if you’ve already altered your pattern.

Note: I printed out half scale versions of the pattern to save paper and to make photography easier.

Draw in the seam allowances accurately around the front and back armholes and the sleeve cap.

Here’s how to correct the sleeve twist.

First, lengthen or shorten the sleeve if you need to. If you changed the sleeve length, draw in a smooth line for the front sleeve seam, but don’t worry about the back seam yet. If you want a slightly looser sleeve, like I did, draw the sleeve seam as a straight line from the underarm to the wrist.

Partially cut out the sleeve along the front inner arm seam and the front half of the sleeve cap.

Fold the pattern in half lengthwise, matching the sleeve seams the best you can, but without twisting or wrinkling up your paper. The underarm and wrist points do not line up, indicating the sleeve has some twist in it. This means that if you sew it up as is, you will get diagonal wrinkles on the underside of your sleeve. Apparently this is a common issue with sleeve patterns, because I saw this correction mentioned in a Craftsy class.

I found that the front underarm point was a little higher than the back. If the difference is small, you can either trim off the extra length on the front, as shown below, or raise the back to match the front. If you have a significant difference, trim off half the difference on the front sleeve cap seam at the underarm, and increase the height of the back at the underarm to match. Smoothly blend into the existing curve.

At the wrist, use a square to draw a new wrist line perpendicular to the fold.

Trace the front sleeve seam onto the back.

Before unfolding the pattern, cut along the wrist line.

Open up the sleeve pattern and draw in a new grainline on your fold line. Cross out the original grainline, then finish cutting out the sleeve pattern along the new lines you marked.

Now cut out the notches on the sleeve cap. Walk the sleeve around the front armhole, using an awl or pin as a pivot point along the seam line. Here’s how to walk the seam, in case you haven’t done it before (or if you’ve only seen the grossly inaccurate methods demonstrated in certain Craftsy classes): Start by matching up the shoulder points, with the awl at the shoulder point right on the seam line, not the edge of the pattern. Pivot the sleeve pattern slightly, and re-position your awl a little further down the seam, making sure to place your awl right on the stitching line each time you move it. Repeat this until you get to the notch.

Mark the notch location on the sleeve onto the armhole (the original notches don’t match up).

Continue to walk the rest of the sleeve cap seam. You will see that the armhole is larger than the sleeve, which is the opposite of what you are used to on a woven garment. On a knit garment the sleeve cap and armhole seams should usually be the same length.

My suggestion is to simply ease the extra armhole length into the sleeve between the notch and the underarm point. Because the knit fabric is on the crossgrain or bias in this area, it will ease so well you will barely notice it as you sew. There’s no need to even sew ease stitches—just stretch the sleeve to match the armhole as you sew.

The armhole ease is essentially acting like a replacement for a small dart, giving you a little extra room in the bust area. I actually did this same thing on purpose as part of a full bust adjustment on my Lark tees, and it worked great. The ease at the lower front armhole is not noticeable on the finished garment.

Alternatively, if you are small busted, you could trim this extra armhole length off of the front side seam, blending to nothing at the waist.

Now you should also walk the back sleeve cap/armhole seam. I didn’t find any problems with the back armhole on size 10, but I didn’t check any of the other sizes.

With these changes, you can make this awesome pattern even better. Yay!

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I will earn a small commission.

Posted in Sewing

Doll House Size Dress Form

Someone asked me if my miniature dress form patterns could be used to make 1:12 scale dress forms for a doll house. I was going to reply no, since they are designed for quarter scale to half scale. But then I wondered if maybe the paper version could be made that small.

The half scale paper dress form pattern is designed to be printed on card stock and reinforced with corrugated cardboard. To test making the pattern at 1:12 scale I printed it at 16.7% of the designed size on regular paper and used a cereal box for the cardboard. I taped it together with tiny strips of Scotch Magic tape and used Liquid Stitch fabric glue applied with a toothpick.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to put the tiny pieces together. However, much to my astonishment, it was actually possible! It helped that I have made several samples in the half scale size, so I was familiar with the construction process.

I wasn’t planning on finishing the dress form. I had thought I would just put a couple of the pieces together to see if it would work. The pieces went together well, though, and it was so cute I had to finish it. I also used the included cardboard stand pattern to make a stand for it. The pole for the stand is a piece of wire coat hanger.

I sewed a knit cover for the dress form from some thin knit fabric and decorated the stand with washi tape. It is so adorable I almost want to make a doll house to put it in. But no, sewing takes up enough time and space in my life, and I don’t need another hobby. I’ll just set this dress form next to my keyboard.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Sewing

Favorite Sewing Tip of 2018: Pin Diagonally!

I meant to come up with a favorite tip for each year, but I couldn’t think of one last January. This year, however, I came up with a really good tip. In fact, this may be the best sewing tip ever. And it’s so simple it’s mind blowing.

Here it is:

Pin diagonally. Not perpendicular to the seam. Not parallel to the seam. Diagonally.

Apparently, there is some great debate about whether pinning perpendicular or parallel to the seam is better. I’ve always been a perpendicular pinner, because that’s what my mother did. I never even thought about it. Then I watched Kenneth King’s Craftsy (now Bluprint) classes, where he advocates pinning parallel to the seam, so I decided I’d do a test to see which I liked better.

I’ve always pinned parallel to my seams when matching dart legs, but I hadn’t tried it on a whole seam. After trying pinning parallel along the seam a couple of times, I decided it was not for me. Yes, pinning this way keeps your fabric edges aligned better, but it’s harder to match seams or stripes, it’s harder to remove the pins, you can’t sew as close to the pins, and worst of all, I stabbed myself with pins every time I tried it.

Then one day, I think when I was pinning down a bias binding, which is kind of bulky, I had a pinning epiphany. When you pin at a 45 degree angle to the seam, you get the benefits of both parallel and perpendicular pinning, without the drawbacks of either, plus a couple of additional benefits.

Here are the benefits of pinning diagonally:

  • The pins slide in more easily.
  • The fabric is distorted less.
  • It’s easier to pin through bulky areas.
  • You can sew close to the pins before removing them.
  • The pins are easy to remove.
  • The fabric can’t shift either side to side or along the seam.
  • You can easily match stripes or seam lines.

Here’s how I match a seam or stripe.

First, measure in the width of your seam allowance and stick a pin vertically through both layers of fabric, matching the seam or stripe right on the stitching line.

Now put a diagonal pin right on either side of the vertical pin, making sure the first vertical pin stays straight.

After those pins are in, remove the vertical pin and put it in diagonally right over the match point. Finish pinning your seam.

When you sew the seam, sew right up to the pins near the match point before removing them.

Every time I do this I’m amazed at how well my seams match. I always had problems matching seams before I tried it this way.

While I’m on the subject of pins, I thought I’d share my recently discovered favorite pins with you. I’d been sewing with the same old pins for over twenty years, and then when I kept trying to replace them, I ended up with a whole drawer full of dull pins. I am so frustrated with the poor quality of nearly everything these days.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you). UK* and CA* are links to the UK and Canada Amazon sites.

Finally I bought Clover Marbled Glass Head Pins* (UK*, CA*). These are absolutely perfect for garment sewing. They are 36 mm long, 0.5 mm in diameter, sharp, and you can iron over the glass heads without melting them. They slip right into fabric, but aren’t so thin that I’m constantly bending them. [Edit: After using these pins for a while, I realized that these pins, while sharper than most pins, are not quite as sharp as the Patchwork Pins. This means they won’t slide into tightly woven fabric as easily, but they won’t slide into your fingers as easily, either!]

They are however, a little pricey, and you only get twenty pins in a package, which I found wasn’t enough. I liked them so much I hated having to use my old pins when I ran out of the new Clover pins.

I almost bought a second package of them, but then I realized that Clover Patchwork Pins* (UK*, CA*) are the same diameter and length and also have glass heads, so I bought a package of those instead. The Patchwork Pins come in a package of 100 instead of 20. Don’t be put off by the word “patchwork” — they are perfect for garment sewing, too. The only difference I could see between these and the marbled pins was the color of the pin heads. So unless you really want pretty marbled pin heads, just get the Patchwork Pins or Clover Silk Pins* (UK*, CA*) which are also the same length and diameter.

After checking the thickness of all of the pins that I have and testing how easily they slide into fabric, I decided that 0.5 mm pins are the thickest I ever want to use for garment sewing. For thick fabric that would bend the pins, I switch to using Wonder Clips* (UK*, CA*).

For thin fabric, I use Dritz Ultra Fine Glass Head Pins* (UK*, CA*), which of all of the Dritz pins I’ve tried are the only decent ones. These pins are 0.4 mm thick and very sharp. They bend easily, so I only use them when I really need thin pins. Clover also makes 0.4 mm pins, if you’d like to stick with the Clover brand:  Clover Patchwork Pins-Fine* (UK*, CA*) (don’t confuse these with Clover “Quilting Pins” which are longer and thicker).

Pinning diagonally is so simple and effective, I’m wondering why everyone doesn’t pin this way. Have you tried it?

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

 

Posted in Sewing

Half Scale Pattern Changes

Craftsy is in the process of making changes to the patterns available on their site, and as part of the process, they’ve removed most of the patterns I had listed for free and for sale there. They will be making more changes, but it is not yet clear what they are.

All of my paid pdf patterns continue to be available in my Etsy Shop. If you have previously purchased a pattern on Craftsy, it will still be available for you to download.

To maintain access to all of my free half scale patterns pictured below, I’ve created a page here on my blog where you can download them, and I added the page to the main menu.

I have plans for more patterns. I’ve been working on fabric men’s versions of the miniature dress forms. I have the patterns designed, but I still have more samples to make, photos to take, and instructions to write. With everything else I have going on it may take me a while to finish, but I hope to have these patterns out in the next couple of months. Here is a sneak peek of the men’s dress forms.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing

Tailor’s Hams and Waffles

Here’s my tutorial and free patterns for making pressing hams of various sizes. And as a bonus, you get my gluten-free waffle recipe.

I’ve been meaning to get an actual pressing ham forever, but instead I’ve just made do with my sleeve roll that has a rounded end. Finally I decided it was time to get a real tailor’s ham.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

After reading reviews of commercially made hams, like the Dritz Tailor’s Ham*, I realized the “wool” side is usually some type of synthetic fabric, or a blend containing a small amount of wool, and it can melt if you are not careful to use low heat on that side. They just don’t make them like they used to.

I’d seen tutorials for making your own ham, so I decided that was the way to go.

The trick with making your own pressing ham, though, is finding something to stuff it with. Pressing rolls and hams are traditionally stuffed with sawdust, but safe sawdust is hard to find. As long as no pressure treated wood has been cut in the mix, sawdust is probably not terribly toxic, but these days even plain lumber is all treated to prevent mold, so it’s more than just wood in that dust. I believe in Canada it’s illegal to sell sawdust. So unless you can get sawdust that was made from cutting firewood or other virgin wood, I’d stay away from sawdust.

I’ve read other suggestions of using shredded paper or fabric scraps. I imagine serger and thread trimmings would work well, but I haven’t been saving them up lately.

I already had some pine shavings made for animal bedding, so I decided to use that. However, wood shavings are designed to be fluffy and hard to compress. I’d read another blog post where the author considered blending them up, but decided it would be a bad idea.

However, I have a super-duper blender. I use my Blendtec Total Blender* to grind grains into flour to make gluten-free waffles, and thin wood shavings are probably easier on the blender than grinding up rice, right?

Pine shavings. Will it blend?

Yes, of course it will!

I found it worked best to blend about three cups of non-compressed shavings at a time on speed 9. They blended down to about a cup of sawdust.

The blended shavings were still probably a little fluffier than actual sawdust, but they were much easier to compress than they were before blending. The blended shavings did have an advantage over sawdust from a saw, though — there was much less fine dust in the mix.

I drew up a set of patterns for tailor’s hams in various sizes. Print out both sheets, trim off one of the borders, and tape the sheets together, matching up the lines.

I made the second largest size and the smallest size. See the picture below for size reference. I plan to use the miniature ham for sewing bras and half-scale garments.

I cut one piece of wool fabric, one of cotton, and two of cotton muslin to underline both sides.

Here’s how to sew the ham:

Place a muslin piece against the wrong side of each of the outer fabric pieces. Stitch the muslin to the outer fabric between notches, 1/4″ (6 mm) from the edge.

Place the right sides of the outer fabric pieces together and stitch around the ham with a 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowance, leaving the seam open between the notches, and backstitching at each end of the seam.

For the two smallest sizes, you can trim the seam allowance, but don’t clip it. Don’t trim or clip the seam allowance on the larger sizes.

Turn the ham right side out.

Then stuff sawdust (or other filling material) into the ham. Pound and squish it to compress the stuffing. Keep stuffing and stuffing, until it is as firm as you can get it and you can’t physically get any more stuffing in there. This will take a while. I made the opening on the largest three sizes large enough to fit a canning funnel* into. That should help you fill it, at least until it is mostly full. If you don’t have a wide mouthed funnel, you can make one by cutting the ends off of a plastic beverage bottle.

If you’ve stuffed your ham with sawdust, you will now have a horrible mess. Get out your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the dust off of the outside of your ham.

Now hand stitch your ham closed, and get pressing!

 


When I was blending wood shavings, my daughter heard the blender going and came over, hoping the sound meant I was making waffles. So I had to make waffles right after I finished blending the wood shavings.

Here’s my “recipe” (or a summary of my haphazard method, at least) for making gluten-free waffles with a Blendtec* blender.

This makes a big batch. Even with a family of four pigging out on them, we have some left over for the next day. You can freeze any leftovers.

For grains to blend properly in a Blendtec blender, you need to blend 1.5 to 2 cups of grain at a time (no more or less), so keep that in mind if you want to reduce the recipe to make a smaller batch.

I blend grains at speed 9 out of 10. If your blender just has high-medium-low settings, blend at high speed, though I’m not sure if it will work quite as well with that type of blender.

Blend (2 cups at a time)
2 cups hulled buckwheat*
2 cups quinoa
2 cups brown rice

You can substitute other grains like millet (very dry, so don’t use too much) or oats (medium dryness) for some of the grains. A balance of dry and gooey grains works best. I suggest keeping the proportion of 1/3 buckwheat in the recipe, since it is nice and gooey. The waffles come out dry and crumbly without the buckwheat. (A caution about buckwheat – grind your own buckwheat flour from hulled buckwheat – don’t frequently eat commercial buckwheat flour that has the hulls ground up in it. Buckwheat greens and hulls cause sun sensitivity. After eating just a little commercial buckwheat flour regularly for a few months, for an entire summer I got hives every time I got the slightest bit pink from too much sun. It took months for the effect to wear off.)

  • Put all of the flour in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons baking powder and
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl.

  • Put 1/4 cup of coconut oil or other oil in the blender jar.
  • Add your choice of 2 eggs, 1 tsp sunflower lecithin powder*, or two eggs worth of egg replacer*. (Optional —makes the waffles a little less crumbly.)
  • Add water until it’s up to the 3 cup measuring line. (You can substitute some type of milk for some of the water for a richer flavor.)
  • Add 1/2 tsp vanilla if you like.
  • Blend at maximum speed until the liquid is well mixed.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour. You will need to add more water or milk until the batter is the right consistency, usually about 3 cups (but start with 2). Mix up the batter. The amount of water needed depends on the mix of grains you use. Err on the side of too thick, since it’s easier to get gluten free waffles out of the waffle iron if they are made from thick batter. Plus it’s easier to add more water than more flour if you need to adjust the batter. You can also use this batter to make pancakes.

Enjoy!

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Crafts, Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Sewing
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