Sewing Tips, Tutorials

How to Sew Perfect Scallops

I’ve been sewing a lot of projects with scalloped edges recently, and my new Highland Avenue House pattern features a scalloped roof. The pattern contains sewing tips to help you create clean and professional scallops. But there’s no reason not to share my tips with everyone. Would you like to learn how to sew perfect scallops? (Okay. We all know our sewing won’t be perfect, but that’s what people are searching for, right?)

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Sewing Scalloped Edges | Radiant Home Studio
(Some links may be affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business in this way!)

I’ll be using the top scallop from the Highland Avenue House to demonstrate, but the technique works for any scallops. You can even make your own scalloped edge using a cup or other round item. I won’t cover that in detail, but it’s pretty easy if you can measure precisely. (Or, check out this awesome quilting ruler that helps you to create perfect scalloped edges!)

Highland Avenue House Pillow Pattern | Radiant Home Studio

You’ll need your fabric, a hem gauge or ruler, a marking tool, and blunt pointed object to push out the edges.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

At the peak of each scallop, make a mark directly above the point. My seam allowance is 1/4″ so my mark is 1/4″ from the point. This will be your pivot point. If you are comfortable sewing an even curved line, that should be all of the marking you need.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

If you need a better guideline to get an even curve, go ahead and make a dotted line by measuring in 1/4″ and making dots along the edges.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

Using a short straight stitch, begin sewing along the first curve using the dotted line as a guide. At the peak, where you marked the pivot point, leave your needle down in the fabric, raise the presser foot and turn the fabric to sew the next curve. Continue to the end.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

When you finish sewing, clip the curves. If the seam allowance is more than 1/4″, trim that as well. Clip into the peaks, as close to the stitches as you can, and cut the excess fabric out around each peak.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

Turn the scallops right side out. The scallops will not look even yet. If you haphazardly press them at this point, you’ll have a very uneven scalloped edge. Don’t just plop the iron down on top of it!

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

To even out the curved seams, use a thin blunt object such as a paintbrush end or knitting needle.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

Push the curves out using your pointed tool. It’s best if you can stretch each curve a little bit to get the seams lined up properly. I work in small sections, pushing out the curve, holding it in place, and pressing as I go. Working slowly and methodically while pressing is the key to getting (nearly) perfect scalloped edges.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

Continue along the curved edge until you reach the end, working to get the curves as smooth as possible.

How to Sew Perfect Scallops | Radiant Home Studio

If you like, you can also topstitch along the scalloped edge. Then add your scalloped detail to your sewing project!

You can use my Mini Highland House pattern to practice sewing scalloped edges. It’s a free gift when you subscribe to my newsletter!

Mini Highland House Pattern | Radiant Home Studio

Or try the Highland Avenue House Pattern

How to Sew Perfect Scalloped Edges | Radiant Home Studio

Highland Avenue House Pillow Pattern | Radiant Home Studio

P. S. If you can’t stop sewing scallops and want some more sewing ideas, you’ll love 18 Beautiful Scalloped Craft Projects!

Sewing Tips

5 Tips to Help Fix a Bag Lining That is Too Big!

Last week I received an e-mail with a really good question about bag linings. So today I’m sharing 5 tips to help you fix a bag lining that is too big!

% Tips to Help You Fix a Bag Lining That is Too Big | Radiant Home Studio

I just wondered if you’ve found (and/or have a way to deal with) linings can sometimes turn out too big, even with measuring?  I’ve found that to be the case for me, especially with tote bags!  So now I’m tweaking how to “fit” the lining…If you have any tips, I’d be happy for the advice!

I remembered that I struggled with bag linings a few years ago, but since then I have learned a few tricks to fix bag linings that turn out too big. I’m guessing it’s a common problem, and one worth addressing. I have a few helpful tips, but my best advice is to keep practicing!

Evelyn Handbag | by ChrisW Designs | Radiant Home Studio

5 Tips to Help When Your Bag Lining is Too Big:

Double check the measurements.

Did you use fusible interfacing on any of your pieces? Sometimes the iron can stretch out the fabric. It’s a good idea double check the size and trim off any excess after you add interfacing. One way to help avoid this problem is to make sure that you press the iron down and pick it up to move it. Sliding it around can distort the fabric shape.

Don’t cut on the fold.

I recommend tracing the full-sized pattern piece, instead of cutting on the fold. I find that I end up with as much as an extra 1/2″ of fabric when I cut on the fold. If you can cut with the fabric flat your pieces will be more accurate. One example…I make a lot of organizers using the Noodlehead Divided Basket pattern, but in order to get the top edges to line up perfectly, the pieces have to be cut accurately. I always cut this pattern flat to ensure that my top edges will fit together properly.

noodle head divided basket top

Taper the seam allowances.

To cut down the extra bagginess in the bottom of the bag, you can try using larger seam allowances. This will make the lining slightly smaller than the exterior. Just taper back to the correct seam allowance when you get to any spot that needs to match up with the exterior (usually the top of the bag). I’ve done this on a couple of bags recently and it seems to make the lining fit better.

Try some hand stitching.

If the lining is loose and moves around, you can try hand-stitching the corners of the lining to seam allowances inside the bag exterior to keep them in place. Just a couple of small stitches in each corner will keep the bag lining smooth and tight.

Divided Tote Bag | Water Bottle Tote | Radiant Home Studio

Don’t worry about it!

Sometimes extra bagginess might just be the way the designer designed it. For example, in my Fairport Purse & Pouch pattern, I debated about adding the pleat to the inside of the bag in the lining. Leaving it out would have made a smoother lining, but it also would have made the usable space smaller. I chose more space.

Keep sewing! The more you practice, the easier it will be to sew straight, line up seams, and keep the seam allowances accurate. Start with some easier projects like adding a lining to canvas tote bag, and then move on to more complicated patterns. Professional looking bags take time and attention to detail. Go slow and take breaks. Pretty soon you’ll have expert looking bags with beautiful linings!

Pattern Review, Sewing Tips

My Most Used Sewing Pattern

I was going to write a typical “show and tell” post for these, but I’ve already reviewed the Noodlehead Divided Basket Pattern. The Divided Basket was the first indie sewing pattern I bought a few years ago and it’s definitely my most used sewing pattern. Since I bought it, I’ve made over a dozen as baby gifts for friends.

My Most Used Pattern | Divided Basket | Radiant Home Studio

At the time, I almost choked paying $6.50 for a pattern when I had only ever bought patterns that were on sale for $1. But it was very different than anything that was available at the fabric store and the basket seemed to be a versatile organizing tool.

My Most Used Pattern | Divided Basket | Radiant Home Studio

I’m in that season of life when my friends are always expecting new babies. This month there were 3 new baby girls! Many of my friends have large families and have most of the things they need, but we like to celebrate all the new babies whether they are the first or the 10th.

I could make bibs, burp cloths, or blankets, but most of the time moms already have those items. But every mom can use more organizing space! And that is why the Divided Basket is my favorite gift to give. Maybe I should try something different, but I continue to come back to this pattern because it seems so useful.

My Most Used Pattern | Divided Basket | Radiant Home Studio

This time I cut and sewed 3 in assembly line style. I bought 1 yd. of each of 3 coordinating fabrics. In order to get the most out the fabric, I cut the largest pieces first and worked down to the smallest pieces. It took me about 3 sittings to finish them, but it was satisfying to have 3 finished gifts at the end.

My Most Used Pattern | Divided Basket | Radiant Home Studio

A side effect of buying this pattern was that I also recognized the value of independent sewing patterns. I realized that designers were able to include extra sewing tips and beautiful photos. They could arrange the instructions in a way that seemed more intuitive. They could design unique patterns for a specific needs, rather than designing for the mass market. And so began my love of indie sewing patterns and my business…

Before that, I’m not sure I had ever sewn something from the same pattern more than once. In contrast, I usually sew at least a couple versions of my favorite indie patterns.

I still have plans to make some simple linen versions of the basket to use for storage in my sewing room. I think I could easily fill 3 or 4 with scraps, zippers, ribbons, yarn, etc.

I’ve tried dozens of other patterns since I bought the Divided Basket, but it continues to be my most used pattern…and worth every cent or that $6.50 that almost scared me away!

I’d love to know…what’s your most used sewing pattern?

Sewing Tips, Tutorials

How to Wax Canvas Fabric

Last week I sewed a men’s messenger bag with waxed canvas fabric. Waxed canvas has the look of aged leather, but is much easier to sew. It’s also water repellent and stain resistant, which is great for items that will be used outside often.

How to Wax Canvas for Bags Using Otter Wax | Radiant Home Studio

(Some links may be affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business in this way!)

Though there are a few sources of waxed canvas in the US (you can find a short list recommended by Colette Patterns), I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for at a reasonable price. I remembered seeing a post over on the Thread Theory blog recommending Otter Wax to make your own waxed canvas fabric.

Men's Waxed Canvas Messenger Bag | Radiant Home Studio

After weighing the options, I decided to try the Otter Wax. It worked exactly as I had hoped! (I feel like I need to say this, but this is not a sponsored post. I’m just a happy customer, sharing my experience!)

First, let me share a few tips about working with the wax:

Use the suggestions on the website to figure out how much you need. I most likely ignored the estimates, hoping to stretch the limits. I ordered the small size bar and ran out. Thankfully, their shipping is super fast and received the 2nd order in 3 days! I ordered the bigger bar the second time, and have plenty left for another bag or a couple of smaller projects.

How to Wax Canvas Fabric | Radiant Home Studio

Applying the wax is easy, but a bit time consuming for larger projects. I worked in small sections (6″ squares) and took breaks. I decided to apply wax as I was putting the bag together. I wanted to avoid stitching on the waxed fabric as much as possible. The presser foot makes extra marks and if you need to pick out stitches there will be visible marks as well. But I also wanted to wax some of the parts that would have been difficult to reach after the bag was finished, like the insides of the outer pockets. I sewed the outer pocket pieces together, then waxed the entire pocket. I waxed the main outer section of the bag before attaching the pocket, but I did the sides of the bag at the end.

How to Wax Canvas Fabric:

Rub the bar of wax vigorously on the canvas. You need to create a bit of heat from friction to warm up the wax. As you can see, it won’t cover every part of the fabric.

How to Wax Canvas Fabric | Radiant Home Studio

Next, use your fingers to rub the wax and spread it evenly across the fabric.

How to Wax Canvas Fabric | Radiant Home Studio

I tried rubbing in all directions, but I created a smooth finish by rubbing perpendicular to the direction of the wax bar strokes. If body heat and friction aren’t enough to smooth out the wax, you can use a hair dryer to warm it up. I didn’t find that a hair dryer was necessary though.

(Update: Wax tends to dry out when stored for months, even when wrapped in plastic. You can soften your wax by microwaving it for about 10 seconds. The surface also forms a sort of crust as it dries out. You can just scrape off that layer to expose the softer wax underneath.)

How to Wax Canvas Fabric | Radiant Home Studio

Just work in small sections, using the corner of the bar to get into the cracks and seams. The wax will stay sticky (and have a distinct smell) for a couple of days while it dries. I recommend letting the wax dry overnight before sewing with your fabric.

You can reapply wax as needed. Just like paint, a second coat will go on smoothly, quickly, and require less wax than the first coat. I expect that a bag would need a fresh coat of wax about a once a year.

Waxed Canvas Retro Rucksack | Radiant Home Studio

Update: Since writing this tutorial, I have continued to use and love the wax! My husband has been carrying his bag for two years now, and it still looks great. The wax keeps the fabric looking new and resists staining. I haven’t applied any more coats of wax and it doesn’t seem to need any.

I recently updated my Retro Rucksack pattern sample with this waxed canvas version. Check out the post for a few more tips!

I also posted a free gift pouch tutorial with a waxed canvas flap.

What do you think? Will you try waxing your own canvas fabric?

Sewing Tips

5 Tips to Build Your Sewing Skills

Are you wondering how to move beyond your beginner sewing skills? There are so many resources available to help you build your sewing skills to move on to more advanced projects! You don’t need to spend a lot of money on classes if you are a self-motivated learner with basic sewing knowledge.

When I was young, my mom taught me the basics of sewing. I learned to sew things like doll clothes and pajama pants. I learned how to use a sewing pattern, and how to find the right materials at the fabric shop. I think this is where many people get stuck—fundamental skills, but lacking in knowledge for how to move on to more advanced techniques and how to build better sewing skills.

When I first got married, my husband worked long hours and I had to find ways to entertain myself. We lived on a tight budget, as most newlyweds do. I did a lot of exploring around town and window shopping. I got a library card and read a lot of the classics that I didn’t get to read in high school. And I also bought an inexpensive sewing machine so that I could make curtains and pillows for our first apartment.

My sewing skills were still just the essentials at that point, but I loved making things and had a desire to learn. It’s been nearly 15 years now, since I began to intentionally build my sewing skills. And I do think it’s important to note that, building sewing skills has to be intentional. It doesn’t happen by accident or natural talent. Everyone starts out as a beginner and spends time learning new skills and techniques as they go.

Looking back, it’s hard to remember where I learned everything, but I know that these 5 things gave me confidence and techniques to try sewing harder things. These are my 5 tips to build your sewing skills…

5 Tips to Build Your Sewing Skills | How to Move Beyond Beginner Sewing Skills | Radiant Home Studio

1. Read Sewing Books

As I mentioned, like most newlywed couples, we had a tight budget. I found that the library had a whole shelf of sewing and crafting books, which I devoured over our 2 years there. I remember one dress, in particular, that I made for myself. It was a huge failure. Somehow it ended up like 4 sizes too big. It was beyond fixing. After that I checked out every book on garment fitting and alterations that I could find. I scoured the books for any tips that would help. I checked them out several times to keep adding to my knoeledge. For a while, I stuck to projects that were easier to fit (skirts and loose tops) until I became more confident fitting complicated dresses.

Another tip…check the author bios in your favorite sewing books and magazines for websites. I’ve found some excellent websites this way!

2. Try One New Thing Each Time

The best way to learn new skills is to add one at a time. Make a simple pillow cover. Then try a 2-piece tote bag and learn to attach the handles.  Make a simple 2-piece tank top (I love the Wiksten tank!), and learn to finish seams with bias facing. Try a simple lined zipper pouch. When you have mastered the zipper, try a side-zip skirt for yourself. With each project, push yourself outside your comfort zone and try something new.

Number 3 may seem contradictory, but…

3. Sew the Same Thing More Than Once

You may figure out the zipper the first time you make a zipper pouch, but if you make the same pouch again you can pay attention to the other details. You will build detailed sewing skills and become more confident making alterations. Several years ago I made a dress for my daughter that I loved, but the way the bodice lining was finished left raw edges showing. I made it a second time and I was able to figure out a way to attach the lining so that the inside was as clean as the outside. That was one of the first successful improvements I made to a commercial pattern early on. It gave me the confidence to make bigger alterations later.

If I plan to make alteration to a complicated pattern, I almost always make it once using the directions and make changes on the second try. It helps to understand the basic construction method before you start inserting steps of your own. As you gain skills, you may be able to alter patterns the first time through when it is similar to something you have done before.

If the dress you made didn’t fit, figure out what went wrong and try it again! Learn from your mistakes and become confident by fixing them.

4. Try Sewing Patterns from Indie Designers

If you haven’t been sewing long, commercial sewing patterns can be a bit of mystery. Sometimes the illustrations and wording are confusing. I’ve had the chance to try out patterns from many different independent designers and I think that many of them are more detailed and intuitive than commercial patterns. They cost a bit more than the patterns you can get on sale for $1, but if you need extra tips, guidance, and photos—you’ll be thankful you spent the $10!

For children’s clothes you can’t beat Oliver & S. And in their shop they sell patterns by several other designers that have been carefully collected and tested for quality. Another one of the popular independent patterns makers is Colette Patterns. Their tagline is “sewing patterns that teach,” so as you might guess there are lots of extra tips. I also love True Bias and Liesl & Co patterns. Search Etsy and Craftsy for sewing patterns. Look for established designers with professional photos and designs. Read reviews to see what other people have made with the patterns.

If all else fails…

5. Google It!

I’ve learned so much from little tips and tutorials that sewing bloggers share! You can find step-by-step photos for almost any sewing technique you need. If your illustrated pattern directions for making a welt pocket don’t make sense, just look up a tutorial for welt pockets online. Another person’s photos or explanation might clarify the process for you. Many times, pattern designers post sew-alongs with extra pictures and tips for making their designs.

I’ve also found that there are a variety of processes for each technique. There are 3 different ways to make an inset zipper pocket (that I know of…). You may find that someone else’s process is much easier for you, so it’s always worth reading through a few different tutorials for each technique. Before you know it, you’ll be swapping pockets and mixing pattern pieces.

Learning to sew takes time and practice, so don’t be discouraged! Build your sewing skills with some sewing books, try something new, practice it again, and search for patterns and tutorials that make sense to you!