Thursday, January 9, 2014

TUTORIAL - Pattern Weights (EASY!)

 Today, I decided to take a break from cutting BILLIONS of quilt squares in order to get crackin' on my stash-busting commitment. I have been trying to decide on a project that would be quick and easy, as well as USEFUL. For me, there is no real point to using up fabric stash if it is just going to become a finished project  that sits at the bottom of a bin. So, I decided to make the pattern weights that have been on my mental to-do list for awhile.
While digging through my fabric piles, I realized that I didn't need big pieces, so I turned to my overflowing scrap bin:
 Pattern weights are a great project for reducing scrap piles, but they are also a good project for people beginning to sew. That is why I thought I would do a tutorial on this.

First, for those who don't know, pattern weights are used as an alternative to pinning when you cut fabric using pattern pieces. (It's a lot faster to weigh that tissue paper down, rather than poking through it with pins.)
Pattern weights come in all shapes and sizes. I have seen people use large metal washers, rocks (like me), and scissors. I chose to make small, round weights because I make quite a bit of children's apparel. And, because you can never have too much practice sewing circles.

Using scrap fabric, find a round shape that is suitable for your needs. I used a pickle jar lid, which is about as small as you want to go since the finished circles come out at about 3".
 Trace around the lid on the wrong side of the fabric using a washable marker, chalk, or pencil.
Cut out your circles and press.
 Lay 2 fabric circles RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER one on top of the other.
Set your sewing machine for a short stitch, and position your needle about 1/4" from the edge of the circle.
Go slow. This is not a race. If you are having trouble stitching the curve, don't be afraid to raise the presser foot (with the needle piercing the fabric) and turn the shape every so often. Whatever gets you through this without turning in to a lunatic...
Sew around the circle, leaving a gap of about an inch or so. The larger the gap, the easier it will be to pull the fabric right side out, but the harder it will be to close it up when it is filled with weight.
 Once you take it off the machine, check the back side to make sure that your fabric didn't slip and cause the stitching to get to close to one edge, as shown below:
 If that happens, you can either rip the stitches out and start over, or decide that it's no big deal (like me). If you choose not to fix it, be careful when you "clip the curve" - you don't want to get too close to the stitch line and fray that edge fabric.
"Clipping the curve" - You will see this term a lot on apparel patterns when making necklines, hat brims, and sleeves. Basically, you can use pinking shears, or cut small triangles to give the fabric some flexibility in order to make a clean, rounded shape.
As you see below, I do not clip the curve at the gap that was left unsewn. It's much easier to fold that "gap fabric" to the inside when it hasn't been clipped.
 Once you have trimmed your seam allowance, turn the circles inside out. Now, stick your finger inside the disk and run it along the sewn edge to force that seam in to the circle shape. Press with an iron to hold the shape.
 Finally, you are ready to fill. You can use metal pellets, washed fish tank gravel, plastic beads, that old bag of lentils in the back of the pantry that you bought when you thought you would make vegetarian hamburgers....pretty much whatever you have on hand that will fit in your fabric disks. I had a bag full of plastic pellets that I got from my MIL many, many moons ago for some other project:
 If you have a funnel with a skinny tip on it, then awesome. If not, just make a paper funnel out of the junk mail in your recycling bin:
 Fit the tip in to the unsewn gap in each disk, and start loading your weight. You want the weights to be flat, and not bulky, once they are filled. We aren't playing a bean bag toss game with these. We are using them to hold stuff down on a flat table...
Once the disks are filled to your satisfaction, you can hand sew the gap shut (to make it pretty), or just shove that sucker under the presser foot on your machine and stitch the edge closed. Make sure that all of your filling is moved AWAY from the stitch area before you use your machine. If you can't move the filling enough to have the presser foot sitting flat, empty a little out and try again.
 Ta Da!! Pattern weights!  You don't need to stop here, though. There are plenty of ways to personalize these a little more, or make them funkier. Grab some buttons, fabric paint, or beads, and get crazy.
 Wouldn't a basket full of these make a great gift for a friend or relative that likes to sew? I know that I would LOVE it. :)


Sarah Liz said...

What fantastic paperweights - on my to do list. At the moment I just use drink coasters (they work :))

Hana - Marmota said...

Wonderful idea! I'm definitely filing this away for later use, because I always end up using mugs and glasses and my camera and whatever for weights...

Angela said...

I never thought of drink coasters! Great idea.

I have also used random objects from around the house, but I hate having to move the tall things (like mugs and mason jars) out of the way as I cut. I like that these are nice and flat, and that I can stick my pins in there if my pin cushion is out of reach. ;)