We had a special request for a sports-themed birthday party. Usually I'm not a procrastinator, but this party was an exception. Two days beforehand, I had NOTHING planned. In fact, I thought we could send everyone into the backyard with all the sports equipment in our garage and say, "Have fun!" Then I saw the forecast for rain. Flooding rain. And I decided there was no way I wanted a gaggle of 8 year old boys tracking that much mud into the house.
So, two days beforehand, I scoured my studio to see what I could come up with since I'm not one to hand out plastic goodie bags of candy. All of my childrens' friends are probably tired of getting fabric bags of one kind or another as party favors, so I had an idea. Yards of white felt left over from a holiday angel wing-making marathon would make the perfect baseball pillows. I found the giant ric rac at Michael's, and thought I would take some pictures in case you'd like to make some last minute pillows too.
Trace and cut two circles of white felt however large you want your finished pillow to be. I used a pizza tray.
Cut two lengths of extra wide red ric rac and pin them to one circle of felt in a curved shape. I held up a baseball and approximated where the ric rac should be placed. Stitch the ric rac to the felt. Either use a wide zig zag stitch to make it quick (helpful when you are making 8 pillows), or carefully follow both outer edges of each piece of ric rac with a straight stitch. Use red thread and no one will notice either way!
Sew around the perimeter of the circle, attaching pillow front to back, leaving a 3" opening for stuffing. (The back of these pillows is plain white felt.)
Trim the edges to even everything up, including the ends of the ric rac.
Use fray check on the ends of the ric rac because it WILL fray. This is a handy fabric glue that dries clear and quickly.
Stuff the pillow with polyfill. Don't overstuff! The more you stuff, the more puckered the outer edges will look. The intent is to make a decorative 2-D pillow, not a firmly stuffed 3-D pillow.
Close the open seam.
Make a bunch! When it rains on the day of the party, these at least aren't as likely to break a window when the kids play with them!
You can now sew your own reusable produce bags using my free tutorial! With my recent change in direction with the business, focusing now on knitting and crochet accessories, I decided to pull my sewing patterns that I had listed for sale in my Etsy and Craftsy shops and turn them into free tutorials here on the blog. Here's a better explanation.
Ready to make your own reusable bags? These are great for the grocery store, farmer's market, or even for collecting shells at the beach. Let's get started!
Cutting Out the Pieces
Cut two—6” x 26” rectangles of quilting cotton (cut 13” on the fold, paying close attention to layout if using directional prints)
Cut one—6” x 26” of the mesh (cut 13” on the fold)
Cut 1 yard of the drawstring cording
Fill your bag with produce and enjoy!
Rope baskets are a thing now, and I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. They are easy, relatively inexpensive to make, and are quite meditative as you sew. They hog thread--about a spool per basket. I never got the hang of turning a corner to make a crisp base, but I also only made two baskets. They turned out larger than I intended, but my children thought my mistake meant all the more candy that the Easter bunny could leave them! Here are a few pictures of the basket in-progress and finished. The red marks near the handles were later erased with a hot iron (I use the FriXion erasable gel pens).
It shouldn't be a surprise that someone who doesn't like plastic, doesn't go for plastic Easter grass. Green fabric is fluffy, the right color, cotton, and reusable year after year. When you no longer fill baskets, you can sew something with it. Win win in my book.
I hope you had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate, and are enjoying that spring is finally here!
If you're anything like me and you sew frequently, eventually you accumulate quite a few empty plastic thread spools. I have a hard time throwing something like that into the trash, preferring to find a way to reuse or recycle it. Today I'll share how you can turn your empty thread spool into an adorable wool roving-covered sheep!
Trace the outline of your thread spool onto the white felt. Cut out two white circles to cover the ends of your spool. Cut a rounded-edge triangle out of the black felt (you can eyeball this based on the size of your thread spool.) Also cut two ear shapes from the black felt. Hot glue the white circles onto the ends of the spool. It helps to remove the labels from the manufacturer first, as some labels are plastic and will melt and curl with the hot glue.
Using white embroidery floss, embroider a mouth and two eyes (I used French knots for the eyes). Hot glue this onto one of the white circles at the end of your thread spool.
With a sharpie pen, mark four spots for positioning legs. This will be different depending on the size of your spool, but you can space the front legs 1/2" apart, and the front from the back legs 1".
Using your drill, make four holes where you marked. This is easier than you think! Don't fear the power tools, but wear safety glasses, please, just in case.
Select 4 eye pins to use for legs.
Place the eye pins into the holes as far as they will go and hot glue in place. Don't worry about being messy with this part as it will be covered up by the roving in the next step.
Take some roving (how much is entirely up to you), and wrap around the thread spool, gluing in spots to hold it all in place. Bend the "legs" to make "feet" so that your sheep can stand up on its own. You can do this with just your fingers, or needle nose pliers.
Separate a small slot in the roving for ears, and hot glue them into place.
Congratulations! You've re-purposed an empty thread spool into an adorable sheep! Do you have ways to reuse thread spools? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Christmas is coming fast, just over two weeks away. Today I'm sharing some items I've bought/bartered for over the past year from artisans that might make a great gift for someone on your list.
Bamboo iPad case from Primovisto. This photo does not do it justice...check out their shop for some beautiful accessories, all made from sustainable bamboo.
While not something you can get in an online shop this year, this mini mug is one of my absolute favorite ornaments from my dear friend Heather of Ledgerock Pottery. Isn't it the cutest?
Since we recently installed a new front door, the entry needed a little sprucing up. This slate street number sign by The Slate Masons was just the right touch.
This key and mail holder is handmade by Rustic Creation. So versatile. The address book also came via Etsy from Beth Bee Books.
Pottery from Rising Sun Earthworks. The chili crock I've had for several years (and still looks brand new!), but the batter bowl is new. It is the handiest size--every kitchen should have one.
Doormat from CapePorpoise Trading. It is made from recycled lobster pot lines in Maine and comes in several colors and at least two sizes.
Cork wallet from Corkor. This wallet is fantastic! Cork is a sustainable material, waterproof and naturally antimicrobial.
Whatever is on your gift list this year, I hope that some of the gifts come from small artisans. Supporting the handmade movement with your dollars does more than give you a beautiful, quality gift. It helps real people just like me pay for my kids' karate lessons. Thank you for your support!
A brand new digital sewing pattern is now available just in time to make some gifts for the Matchbox car-lovers in your life this holiday season. This PDF instant download pattern gives you detailed photos and step-by-step instructions for making a play mat that can go along to places like the doctor's office, an airplane, or big sister's soccer game.
Playing with cars on the roadway is a great way to play quietly, encouraging the imagination.
Five pockets will easily hold 5 cars (Matchbox, Hotwheels, etc.), more if they are smaller or vehicles like motorcycles.
When play time is over, fold the mat in half and roll up to play another day.
This sewing pattern is available as an instant download in my Etsy shop for just $6. It can be completed in about an hour, and is suitable for beginners and advanced sewists alike. Buying the pattern includes a license to sell the item in limited home production, giving credit to Dancing Threads RI as pattern designer.
Make several as gifts this holiday season! If you make one and post to Instagram, please tag @dancingthreadsri!
The average school student will use 500+ plastic baggies in his/her lunchbox in one academic year. For argument's sake, let's say there are 60 school days left this year. And one child uses 3 snack baggies every day in a lunchbox (sandwich, fruit, vegetable). Between now and summer, that's 180 snack baggies being thrown away per child!!
Later this week I will deliver a fresh stack of snack baggies to Clements Market here in Portsmouth. In this group, you will find a bag perfect for just about anyone. Have a look.
Paper airplanes and baseballs.
Handwriting and math.
Even a matched set of small and large.
All of these bags have the ripstop nylon lining, great for crackers and other dry-ish snacks. Machine wash on cold, line dry. I will not offer this lining anywhere except at Clements--not at festivals and not in my Etsy shop ($7 small, $9 large). All the snack bags you will find at my shows from now on have an eco-PUL waterproof lining. Get them while you can! The next set I deliver will likely be completely different fabrics.
Have you noticed the new email signup form on the right hand sidebar? It needs some formatting, but it works! Try it out, and let me know what you think of my email newsletter!
We may have gotten more snow overnight, but I'm turning my thoughts to spring with the handbag I'm sharing today.
Following the principles I laid out in my last post on Sustainable Sewing, I set out to make myself a new spring handbag. The pattern is the 241 Tote from Anna Graham of Noodlehead, a mid-western independent handbag designer. The pattern was actually purchased 2 years ago and I'm just now getting around to making it! Since the pattern includes the license to sell bags made from it, this may appear as part of the Dancing Threads RI product line--I'm still chewing on the idea.
The main exterior print is an organic cotton from Cloud 9 fabrics. Organic cotton can be more expensive, but I happened to find this print at a discount store here in RI for $1.99/yard! It must have been overstock from a discontinued print.
Companies like Cloud 9 are making organics in fresh, modern, beautiful prints.
The other fabrics used in the bag are 100% cotton and are smaller pieces left from other projects.
I love the overall shape of the bag!
The side pockets extend a bit away from the body of the bag, leaving them easy to access. One for phone, one for keys. Perfect.
One interior pocket plus a magnetic snap closure. The strap is the perfect length for a shoulder bag.
I'm ready for spring! Whenever it finally gets here.
What do you think? Would you like to see this as a bag in my shop?
Last week I got a pair of boots! I've been holding off for about 4 years to get a basic pair of brown leather boots. There was always something else that needed attention. I didn't need boots. But if I was buying boots, I was going to get a well-made real leather pair that would last at least 10 years (I hope!). That also meant a bit of saving on my part. Buying something you have been looking forward to, that you have saved for in advance, and that will be a wardrobe staple for years to come--what a satisfying purchase!
Last week I talked about composting your natural fiber scraps from sewing. What about the PUL? Nylon? Ribbon trimmings? If I can avoid throwing anything away, I will. Those bits and pieces that cannot be composted can still be recycled. Today I'm going to show you how to make boot inserts using other types of scraps.
Most boots look like this when you put them away at the end of the day:
I'm new to the leather boot party, but I'm going to take a wild guess that the leather will wear prematurely if you store your boots in this slumped-over position. If you do a quick search on Pinterest for "boot shapers", you get lots of people telling you to cut a foam pool noodle in half, plunk one into each boot. No thank you. You can probably guess that I'm not a fan of foam pool noodles. I'm not even going to show you any of those pictures, that's how much I like to avoid using plastic. There are some other ideas (wine bottle, coat hanger, water bottle, rolled up magazine, flexible cutting boards, Pringles canister...you get the idea). So I came up with another method that basically fills a fabric tube with scraps, making a firm support for your boots. Let's get started.
Start with two pieces of fabric, each 12" wide x 24" long. You can adjust the dimensions if your boots are very different from my size 9.5 (some calf designs are wider, some feet are too narrow for this diameter tube).
Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew a seam along the bottom and side openings with a 1/2" seam allowance. The red lines in the picture approximate the seams. (My pincushion in this photo is also filled with recycled scraps!)
Turn the tube right side out through the open end and stuff with sewing scraps.
Fill to within about 2" of the edge. Stuff firmly, but don't over-stuff. This kind of filling is dense and gets heavy quickly. You want the tube to have a firm shape.
Fold the raw edges in, creating a smooth edge without any frayed edges. Sew closed with a 1/4" seam allowance. If you overfill the tube, it will be difficult to wrestle through your sewing machine. It's better to have more room with which to work, you can redistribute the stuffing after the form is finished.
The finished boot supports may be a bit lumpy, but who cares?!?! You can smooth them out a bit by redistributing the filling. Plus, they are going to be inside a boot--no one will really even see them.
Recycling and maintaining a wardrobe investment at the same time. Now that's the sign of a good day! Cute bird fabric from Ikea is the icing on the cake.
Whenever I sew something, I try to use up every last bit of fabric. I've made all sorts of products to use the smallest bits of beautiful fabric--check out the patchwork pin cushion. Even after making something like the pincushion, there are tiny scraps leftover. How can you avoid throwing these bits away?
For 100% cotton and all other natural fibers (100% wool, linen, etc.), the small scraps can be composted. The fabric is biodegradable, and the small nature of these scraps mean they will break down relatively quickly in a compost pile.
You cannot compost synthetics. Any polyester fabric is not biodegradable, so it's not going to break down in a compost bin. This includes thread--most thread is 100% polyester. If you have scraps that have parts of seams sewn with poly thread, they cannot be composted.
From here on out, Dancing Threads RI will not buy printed fabric that is synthetic! The vast majority of my fabric is 100% cotton, but occasionally I work with indoor/outdoor fabric, a natural/synthetic blend or recycled felt (recycled from plastic water bottles, but since the scraps of felt are plastic, they are not biodegradable). I will use up what I currently have in stock, but I will not purchase any new synthetic printed fabric. For now, I will continue to use ripstop nylon and PUL for linings, and nylon mesh for produce bags. To be honest, I have not yet found a viable alternative. If you have suggestions, I would love to read them in the comments!
What about polyester thread snips? PUL and nylon scraps? I'm not throwing those into the trash anymore! I will share some ideas for using scraps as filling for other projects (instead of polyfill which is 100% polyester/plastic). For now, my scrappy sailboat ornaments/decorations are filled with these bits of leftovers. I have a tutorial lined up for something seasonal and quite useful that I think you will like. Check back here next week!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.