Making a New Cover for a Tailor’s Sleeve Press Tutorial

While cleaning up the sewing room today, I got side tracked by two projects. Both related to the cleaning up. In putting away spools of thread and bobbins, I realized that I could make another shelf for the bookcase where most of my thread is stored. After getting that done, and the shelf contents tidied up, I decided to tackle the top of the bookcase where ironing tools are stored.

tailor's sleeve board 1

I’m sure you see the connection to the tailor’s sleeve press, which resides on top of the bookcase. How I got sidetracked was seeing the pitiful condition of the cover on the old pressing tool. Every time I see it, I think that one day I should make a new cover for it, then forget. But when I do use it, I wish I had already made a new cover.

tailor's sleeve board 2

I rarely sew clothing, but it is a wonderful tool for pressing seams on things like a bag.

So, my cleaning was temporarily suspended for the lure of a new project. Now the tailor’s sleeve press has a new cover and you have a new tutorial.

Tucked away in a box of specialty fabrics under my work table is a large piece of ironing board fabric. This is a 100%-cotton fabric with an aluminized coating. I have used this for making ironing pads as well as quilting it for oven mitts. You can buy already quilted ironing board fabric, but for an ironing surface, I prefer a smooth surface with no quilting.

I took off the cover on one side, placed the uncovered wood on top of the fabric, which was placed wrong side up on my sewing table. The shape of the form was traced onto the fabric. Next, 1″ was added all around. Then this was cut out.

tailor's sleeve board 3

Note: If I had to do the project over again, I would have added about a 1/4″ more all around so that the fabric neatly covered the sides rather than just barely covered the sides.

Fold the fabric in half down the length and finger press a crease on the wide end. This is where the stitching starts and stops so the tie will be at the back.

tailor's sleeve board 4

Thread a cord or heavy crochet thread through a cording foot on your sewing machine. Then, using, zigzag stitch all the way around the piece of fabric, starting and stopping at the crease with a little bit of gap (about 1/4″) between start and stop. The zigzag stitch will create a casing for the cord. Leave several inches of cord at each end for tying off.

tailor's sleeve board 5

In the next picture, you can see that one side has been recovered. The original padding, which I kept, can be seen on the other side. Next to the press is the second cover ready to be slipped on and cinched into place by pulling on each cord end to gather up the excess in the curves and tying off the ends.

tailor's sleeve board 6

So that the sides of the cover does not slip back and forth and to create more tension on the fabric and thus a flatter work surface, the fabric is laced into place on the back side of the board.

tailor's sleeve board 7

The next time I use my tailor’s sleeve press, I will be glad it has been recovered. It was a short project, taking about an hour, so there is still plenty of time to finish cleaning up the sewing room. That is if there isn’t another project which draws me away from restoring order to the sewing room.

tailor's sleeve board 8



Ring Thimble with Plate Tutorial

This tutorial is for a ring thimble with plate. This type of thimble is often used for sashiko stitching, but can also be used for stitching temari or when stitching through thick or difficult fabric. The thimble is worn as a ring, but the plate that rests on the palm at the base of the finger is what pushes the needle. This allows greater force to be used than just the strength of fingers, making stitching easier.

temari thimble 1

You might wonder why anyone would want to make a ring thimble with plate when an adjustable metal or leather ones can be purchased inexpensively? Well, if you are like me, and allergic to various metals, then a metal one is not a good option. The leather ones are usually colored with dyes that often contain metal, so that is not a good option either for the same reason. Also, I find the soft plate of the leather still allows my palm to get sore.

I find my handmade thimbles to be much more comfortable than either the metal or the leather ones, which I did try. I even wrapped the metal one in fabric, to make it usable. But the time spent make that one useable could have been spent making a better one. These also have a slightly larger plate than the metal one, which I find easier to use.

Making your own thimble also allows you to have one with a custom fit size.


temari thimble 2

The tools, materials and supplies you will need are in the picture above. They include:

  • Scissors – for cutting thread and for cutting plastic and fabric
  • Thread, general purpose – one to match felt color and one matching ribbon color
  • Small needle– for stitching with the general purpose thread
  • Large needle – for stitching with the perle cotton  or embroidery thead
  • Perle cotton thread (or embroidery thread)- color that coordinates with felt color
  • Template plastic – or equivalent cut to 1/4″ wide by the circumference of your finger (where you would wear a ring) plus 1/2″
  • 3/8″ grosgrain ribbon – one at 2 1/2″ long
  • 3/8″ grosgrain ribbon – one at 2 times the length of the strip of template plastic plus 1/2″
  • A pull ring seal from a milk or other carton – this one is from an almond milk or coconut milk container
  •  Felt – a small piece that is slightly longer than the plastic strip and a little wider than the width of plastic strip plus the width of the pull seal. A polyester felt was used for this project due to an allergy to wool.


temari thimble 3

L to R: seal with ring, seal with ring cut off, and seal with an edge cut off

Cut the ring off the pull seal. Next, cut a sliver off the edge of the circle so that it includes the little nub where the ring was attached.

temari thimble 4

Align the long piece of ribbon just inside the long straight edge of the piece of felt and place the seal with the cut edge near (with a small gap between) the ribbon. With a pen, trace along ribbon and around pull seal. Next, cut just outside the marked line, being more generous around the seal.

temari thimble 5


With the leftover piece of felt, lay the pull seal on the fabric with a gap (about 3/16″ to 1/4″) between the cut edge of the circle and the edge of the felt. Trace the curved edge with a pen and then connect the line up to the edge of the felt. See picture above. Cut outside the marked line.

temari thimble 6

From the remaining felt piece, cut a small circle that just fits inside the concave side of pull seal. Baste in place with a couple stitches.

temari thimble 7

Place the pull seal convex side up on top of back of felt so it fits inside circular area. Stitch pull seal to felt so that the stitches are small random stitches on the concave felt side. See pictures above.

temari thimble 8

Trim felt around the pull seal so that it is even with edge of plastic.

temari thimble 15

Take the longer piece of ribbon and fold it in half so that a 1/2″ of one end extends beyond the other end. Starting at the fold end, whip stitch down one side, insert the strip of plastic and then stitch down the other side to enclose the plastic. Don’t cut the thread yet.

If the ribbon is stiff like the metallic grosgrain that is used here, then the plastic probably is not necessary, but is recommended for a softer ribbon such as a satin or non-metallic ribbon. The metallic was used for this project as it was what was on hand at the time.

temari thimble 16

Wrap the ribbon around the finger you would use it on. I find the ring finger, next to smallest, one works best for me. Wrap so that the folded end is underneath and the cut end on top. Mark the ribbon where the overlap starts. The thread tale shows where the folded end is under the other end. Don’t make the fit snug. You want to be able to slide it on and off easily.

I had to pin the ribbon in order to take a picture.

temari thimble 17


Stitch the ring closed along both sides of the overlap. When you get to the cut end, fold it under and continue sewing across the fold, then down the other side.


temari thimble 9

Take the short piece of ribbon, fold it in half and slide over the overlapped section of the ribbon ring. Stitch it to the top of the seal. In the picture on the right, you can see where the felt has been flipped down to show stitches that go through the pull seal. Trim the ribbon.

This ribbon connector provides more support so the felt between the ring and the plate does not get stretched and worn.

There are little holes in the edge of the plastic because I forgot this step and had to unstitch the felt backing from the pull seal, attach the ring and restitch backing.


temari thimble 10

Baste backing in place.


temari thimble 11

Wrap felt strip ends around ribbon ring and trim so the ends just meet. Stitch ends together with thread that matches felt.

temari thimble 12

Using a buttonhole stitch, stitch around the plate, around the bottom edge of ring and the top edge of the ring.

temari thimble 13Using a stab stitch, stitch across the space between the plate and bottom of the ring, then go back the other direction and with stab stitches, fill in the spaces. This stitches the plate backing to the felt and the ribbon connector.

temari thimble 14

Your custom made ring thimble with plate is ready to use.

Pincushion Paperweights

paper weight pin cushion

These three pincushions were made for our quilt guild chapters fundraiser auction coming up next week. They were made by sewing two circles of muslin together (leaving a small opening), filling with clean sand (a funnel is handy for this step), and then stitching the opening shut. Two circles of felt the same size were stitched together a little past halfway around, the sand bag was slipped between the two felt circles and then I finished stitching the felt circles together.

The stitching designs on the green and fuchsia  pincushions are temari inspired.

I found that it was easier to do the decorative stitching after the felt was stuffed with the sand bag because it did not need to be in an embroidery hoop the keep the tension of the stitching even as the felt surface was already a little taut. A button was centered on both the front and back and stitched through both, tying off in the front. I used a square knot, tied half the knot, put a little dab of glue in the center, then tied the other half the knot to prevent it from coming undone.

When I was working on cutting out some fabric from a pattern I made, I needed a weight for the fabric (I prefer to use just about anything other than pins when sewing) and immediately thought of my just made pincushions. They worked great. So, I am now calling them pincushion paperweights.

Handmade Large Curved Needles

Needing a large curved needle with a large eye and unable to find one locally, I resorted to making my own. With the time I spent driving to several stores and calling many more, I figured it would take less time to make one than to find one either locally or online.

handmade large curved needles

The two large needles are ones I made and the small one is a purchased one, shown for comparison.

Not only did I try fabric stores, but I also tried stores that sell kitchen supplies. The reason for that is I discovered there is something called a trussing needle used in cooking. No luck.

Since I tend to be a do-it-yourself person, it occurred  to me that I could make my own.  My first attempt was to bend a plastic yarn needle. I was successful at reshaping the needle and it worked well on first use, but on the second pass it broke.

I needed a sturdy metal needle, preferably longer than the long upholstery needles I own. I remembered that I had some left over steel insulation support rods. They are 2mm thick which would be 12 gauge wire.

Here is how they were made:

1. Wire cut to desired length with bolt cutter (these two are 6″ and 4″)

2. One end hammered to flatten and widen it for the eye. I used a heavy hammer and the anvil part of a large vise for the work surface.

3. A 1/16″ hole was drilled into the flattened head end.

4. Using a wide flat metal file, I rounded the head and smoothed out burrs.

5. Using the same metal file, the other end of the wire was dragged down the length repeatedly as I was turning the wire until it had a nice point.

5. Holding the needle on the head end with a pair of pliers, I inserted the point end into a hole in surface of my work table , then slowly bent the wire.

6. The needle was cleaned with steel wool.

It took less time to make them than it took to write this post. And yes, as crudely made as they are, they work very well.


I found large needles last week! And locally.

The store I found them in was Jo-Ann Fabrics, which is all over the US. They can be ordered from the store online too.

I feel silly because I had just looked there, but in the wrong section. The key to successful finding was to look in the upholstery tools and supplies section of the fabric store.  Even if you don’t have the same store, check the upholstery section of your local fabric store.

I bought a package of 4 curved needles in lengths (if straightened out), 3″,  4″, 5″, and 6″ (7.6cm, 10cm, 12.7and 15.2cm). And I also bought a packaged of 4 straight needles in lengths of 6″, 8″, 10″, and 12″ 15.24cm, 20.32cm, 25.4cm and 30.48cm).

Having one of the long straight needles would have been nice for squashing the pumpkin temari I made.

I still prefer the shallower curve of my homemade needles and will probably experiment with one of the long straight needles to see if I can bend one without breaking it. I think bending a straight needle into a smooth curve would be more likely to succeed than trying to partially unbend a curved needle.



A Yarn Swift Temporarily Converted to a Skein Winder

yarn swift converted to skein winder

yarn swift converted to skein winder

Necessity is the mother of invention. That is a truism that often applies to my life and I  believe the Greek philosopher Plato gets credit for that quote.

Many years ago, I made a skein winder and somehow managed to break it a couple years ago.

Yesterday, when I was wishing I had my skein winder and happended to have my yarn swift laying about, I came up with the idea of temporarily converting it to a skein winder. Fortunately, I had my friend and fellow fiber artist visiting, so I could bounce my idea off her and get feedback.

I needed a skein winder to wind off a ball of crochet thread for hand dyeing and to measure the thread. The label on the crochet thread did not include how many yards, so I could not estimate if one ball was enough for the project  for which I was dyeing the thread.

Well, I figured that by mounting the swift  horizontally instead of vertically (like clamping to a table edge) that it could work as a skein winder. But my friend, Carol, pointed out that using the swift instead of a skein winder might make  each pass of the  yarn might be variable in length. I think she meant that the yarn would wind into the V of the wood arms, making each pass of the yarn slightly longer as it built up on top of itself, unlike being wound on straight pegs.  Even if I misunderstood her, her comment got me to thinking. Also, another concern I had was  that the top umbrella part of the swift would slide off the base if it was perfectly horizontal or the top pointing slightly downward. And finally, how was I going to easily measure the thread?  I did not pursue solving my swift to skein winder yesterday since I was busy making a temari for a friend’s son.

I came back to problem solving this morning after finishing the temari and I realized the best course was to keep it simple and use what was at hand. Otherwise, I might as well take the time and make a new skein winder or buy one.

The answers were all right there at hand this morning.

The back of a dining room chair had the perfect slight slant to clamp the swift from sliding off the base and provided a good height to work at.

Popsicle sticks (which I have a box of them since they are handy to have) could be used to bridge between the ends of the swift arms and thus provide a straight edge to wind the thread onto instead of a V. I drilled a hole in both ends of each stick. Paper clips were used to insert into the hole in one end of the stick and the bottom end (end closer to base) of an umbrella arm. So that the sticks would not make the extendable arms fixed in lengths, elastic hair bands were used to secure the top (end further from base) of the popsicle sticks to the top of each arm. The hole in the other end of the popsicle sticks was not necessary, but I had planned on using elastic thread to tie the stick to the swift arm, but I could not find it, so hair bands were used instead of the second option of rubber bands, which could not be found either.

yarn swift converted to skein winder- close up2

yarn swift converted to skein winder- close up

To make the yarn easy to measure, I open the umbrella to and secured the arms into position so that a tape measure wound around the swift measured one yard.  After the yarn was wound and tied off, I counted the threads and found that there was 103 yards. Now I know I need another ball of crochet thread before I begin dyeing.

The only problem I encountered with winding the yarn on the converted umbrella swift, was that the yarn wanted to slide off the bottom of the popsicle sticks. This was easily solved by bending the paperclip wires up so that they acted as stops.

I am pleased with the temporary solution, but I still want to make another skein winder so I do not have to keep changing the swift back and forth.

Sewing Room Problems and Solutions

In this post, I offer some solutions to some of my sewing room problems that I have encountered over the years.  Frustrations with problems of sewing room storage and use lead me to solutions to make the space more user friendly. I often wished that I had found solutions a long time ago, but realize that as my needs change, so will my solutions. Maybe some of these ideas will be of help to you.
My first sewing room addition was my sewing table. It is actually a desk purchased at a used office furniture store. The sales person was surprised that I was passing up the nicer looking executive wooden desks for one with a plastic laminate surface and that I intended to cut a hole in the top. It was the perfect solution for my sewing machine. It provided a large, smooth surface for larger sewing projects such as quilts. It was far less expensive than a sewing table. I cut a hole for the machine and added a shelf to support the machine (which also created an additional shelf for storing a small ironing pad and small cutting rotary mat).

Sewing table

Re-purposed used office desk as my sewing machine table

Later I drilled a hole in the table top to add a swing arm lamp for better lighting. Then I mounted the electrical power strip to the side of the table so I would not have to crawl under the table to find it. It seemed to always migrate to the back. Some days I just don’t feel like crawling under the table.

Power Strip

Power strip mounted for easy reaching

Besides, that is where I store boxes containing current projects. If I have several projects going at once at different stages, then I never have to worry about getting burnt out on a project, because I can always switch to another.
Also tucked under the sewing table when not in use is my chair. It is a backless office chair that I purchased at a county surplus sale for $2 then recovered it with a quilted piece of scrap lightweight canvas. I never lean back when sewing, so there is no reason for a back that would get in the way in a small room. The floor mat makes it easy to glide back and forth between the sewing machine and the tool cabinet or the small bookcase.

Sewing Chair

Reupholstered backless office chair

The table has a generous space to the right of the sewing machine which allows for all sorts of in-progress supplies (and junk) can pile up. But there is also space for a CD/radio player which I consider essential to sewing.

The next addition was a tool cabinet. This had been a gift from my parent in-laws for us to store tools in, tools such as drills and wrenches. It was a better fit for the sewing room tools and a six foot tall cabinet in the utility room was a better choice for the other tools. Also, the shallow drawers are perfect for things like template plastic and small tools, while the deeper drawers work well for larger tools and supplies.
After buying a couple of rotary cutting rulers, I had to find a way to store them for easy access. The best solution I could come up with was a multi-pocket organizer like the kind used for shoe storage, but custom fit to rulers and triangles. It is held in place on the side of the tool cabinet with to magnetic hooks at the top. Unfortunately, it has become so loaded that it is sagging. It might be time to cull out the ones that never get used to lighten the load. That would be easier than redesigning the organizer.

Tool Cabinet

Tool Cabinet

The top of the tool cabinet is the parking spot for my dry iron. After having used various irons over many years of sewing, this one is my favorite. In case you were wondering how the iron is a solution to a problem, I will tell you it was several problems solved. The sole plate is solid stainless steel. That means even heat distribution when pressing which is important when using fusibles. Having little spots where the fusible did not heat set due to little steam vent holes are annoying. Also, I never use the steam feature as I prefer to use a spray bottle to dampen my fabric that way no blobs of black gunk coming out of steam holes to ruin my fabric. The stainless steel bottom is easy to clean, if necessary. There is no auto-off feature on the iron. This is an advantage if you are trying to move the iron slowly, such as when making binding, because the iron does not shut off every few seconds. The disadvantage is that I have to treat it like a stove- if I walk away, I turn it off or unplug it. This one was purchased through mail order from Vermont Country Store on the recommendation of my friend Carol.


Iron with stainless steel sole plate and no steam holes and no auto-off

Our dining room table was oversized for our family needs and just the right size for my sewing needs, so it migrated from the dining room to the sewing room. It is probably better protected from damage in its current location and use than it was before being reallocated to support creative production rather than culinary consumption. The table is covered with its original heat proof pads, which are secured in place with a canvas cover, over which is placed a large rotary cutting mat on one side and an ironing pad on the other side.

Work Table

Dining room table reallocated as sewing room work table

The ironing pad was made for use on this table. It is felt and ironing board fabric edge-stitched together. If this were a different table, the pad would need a thicker layer of felt to protect the table from heat, but the table is already covered with heat-proof pads. This was far less expensive to make that the original ironing pad that I purchased, which unfortunately had an inaccurate grid and was too spongy as I usually prefer a firmer ironing surface.
The problem with most tables is the height is appropriate for sitting at, not standing to work at. Standing at a table that is too low when doing activities such as rotary cutting and basting a quilt, is hard on the back after a while, even for someone like me who is on the shorter side of average height. That problem was easily solved with bed lifts.

Bed Lift

Bed lifts for the work table

An added benefit of jacking up the table is additional space under the table to store boxes of fabric two high. Not being a typical quilter who adds to a stash with purchases of fabric that might one day be used, my boxes of fabric are just leftovers from various sewing projects, not just quilts, so the space under the table is adequate.

When my son’s books outgrew a small bookcase, it was re-purposed in the sewing room for storing the thread stash. Thread is one material I confess to stashing, probably for some of the same reasons most quilters add to their fabric stash. The clear plastic thread boxes stack neatly on the shelves making it easy to organize and find the right thread for a project. There was enough space for other supplies too.

Small bookcase filled with clear storage boxes used to organize thread and other small supplies.

Finding a storage solution for thread bobbins and sewing machine presser feet took years of enduring scrambled bobbins and presser feet. Bobbin boxes were too small and did not keep the threads from tangling. The original box for the presser feet was quickly outgrown so new feet were just piled on top. The proverbial light bulb came on one day, and the idea to use foam with channels cut in them to organize them came to me out of the blue. The foam is cut to fit drawers in a little plastic three drawer organizer. No more messy bobbins or misplaced presser feet. This idea worked so well that I will be trying it to for storing other tools such as compasses.

bobbins and feet drawers

Custom fit bobbins and feet drawers made using foam inserts

Tucked in the corner between the tool cabinet and the bookcase are some awkward to store items such as a box of patterns and a homemade light box. The light box was easy to make and a great solution to a dependable and horizontal surface for tracing patterns onto fabric. Taping pattern and fabric to a window was a method that was not working as it depended on daylight and was not a comfortable work surface. An internet search for how to make a portable light table will yield many results. If you use the term “box” instead of “table”, you will get a box for photo shooting instead.

Awkward bulky stuff stored in corner

There was a skinny space between the sewing table and the door that was a perfect size for a narrow bookcase found at a consignment shop, to store sewing books, notebooks, drawing paper and other things. The space on top is not wasted as it is storage space for more supplies.

Tall bookcase fills an otherwise wasted space

My dogs like to keep me company in the sewing room so they need beds for napping. Not really beds as they prefer a makeshift bed of a box or basket half filled with fabric, and if that is not available, than any scrap of fabric will do. My son often keeps me company too as he enjoys listening to music or an audio book with me as he works on his studies and sprawls on the floor as he is now way too big for sitting on the sewing table which used to favor when he was little. And on the rare occasion that my husband is brave enough to visit my normally messy sewing room, there is a chair in the corner.

My sweet girls think all fabric is for them to sleep on

I tidied up the room for pictures, but finding solutions to sewing room problems with organization makes even a messy sewing room user friendly. I hope you found some good ideas here for solutions to any sewing room problems you might have. I’ll bet someone can find the stray spool of thread that escaped my clean-up. The first person from whom I receive a reply to this post who has correctly identified where the spool is in one of the pictures in this post will get a prize (if you are in continental USA)- a handmade, quilted fabric box.