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!
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!
If you're following along with the SewMamaSew Handmade Holiday series, you'll see that it finished up yesterday. I think the Foxy roundup on Sunday Nov 29 was my favorite. There are lots of great ideas for everyone on your list. Don't forget to check the archives for the past 8 years.
I thought I would add a free tutorial roundup of my own, in case those ideas weren't enough to keep you busy for the next 4 weeks. These are some of my all-time favorite gifts that I've given in past years.
The Gathered Clutch Tutorial from Anna at Noodle-Head.
Gingerbread Ornament by Elsie at Elsie Marley
Simple Felt Garland by Jess at Craftiness is not Optional
Stuffed Crab Toy by Abby at While She Naps
Kid Pants by Dana at MADE
Camera Strap Cover by Lindsay of the Cottage Mama
Superhero Cape by Lindsey at The Pleated Poppy
Quilted Coasters by Shannon of Very Shannon
Happy Holiday Stitching!!
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.
With more and more people raising backyard chickens each year, I bet that some of you out there have chicken feed bags leftover from your free-ranging egg machines. There is often some beautiful artwork on feed bags--no need to throw that plastic bag away! You can make a tote bag in a short period of time with a few simple sewing supplies.
Here is how I made this one for a friend.
First, cut the bottom off of your feed bag.
Cut two equal strips from the top of the feed bag. I cut 5" wide strips, but you can decide how thick your straps will be, as well as how much of the bag's graphics you want to sacrifice to the straps. Open up the 5" wide loop at one end so you have one long piece. I trimmed mine to a final strap length of 5" x 34" (I like to sling totes over my shoulder, and I find this length works well to do that).
Go back with a ruler and rotary cutter to even off the end, aligning with text or other graphics on the feed bag.
Fold the strip lengthwise in half, finger-pressing a crease in place.
Open up the piece, and fold the edges each in halfway, edges meeting at the center crease you just made.
Fold up the strap so that the raw edges of the long sides are now enclosed. DO NOT USE PINS. Clothespins or binder clips work really well to hold this material in place when you are ready to sew with it. Pins will leave irreparable holes.
Edge stitch both sides of the strap with a seam allowance between 1/8"--1/4". Repeat with the second strap. There is no need to finish the raw edges as it is plastic, and will not fray.
Sewing tip: you may need to gently tug on the material from the far side of your machine to get it to run smoothly. Pushing from the front doesn't seem as helpful, but maintaining even pressure (not too much!) from both sides will give you a smoother seam.
A machine needle used for garments or quilting cottons is not strong enough to handle this fabric. I recommend using a Denim needle, or a size of at least 16/100. The above photo is from a needle multi-pack--the needle shown is a heavy duty one, good for this project.
Turn the bag inside out. With a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the bottom closed. Then cut a 2.5" square notch from each of the two bottom corners to make a bottom box pleat (you may skip this step if you don't want a flat-bottom tote).
Open up the cut-away area and match the bottom seam with the side crease (not shown). Sew closed with a 1/2" seam allowance.
A finished box pleat.
Fold over the top edge of the bag by about 1/2" and sew a hem with a 1/4" seam allowance. You can make a bigger/smaller hem to preserve artwork on the front of your bag--it's completely up to you. No need for a double-roll hem because this is not going to fray.
Attach your handles wherever they are going to be most comfortable for you. I made a square that measures 1"x1" and went over it 2-3 times for durability. Placement of handles depends on the size of the bag. My finished tote is about 21" wide by 18" tall (32" tall with the handles), and I spaced my handles 4" in from the sides.
Congratulations! You saved a plastic bag from the trash, and have a handy new tote bag too. This is what I'm now calling Sustainable Sewing. Look for more sewing tutorials here soon. I would love to hear from you and see pictures if you make a feed bag tote using this tutorial!
I know, I know, it's too early to be thinking about the holidays. Let's enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving first! I completely agree. BUT...when you would like to make some gifts to give, you have to start early. Consider this a friendly nudge to get started.
One of my favorite sewing blogs, SewMamaSew, has an annual Handmade Holiday series throughout the month of November. They post multiple tutorials per day (usually thematically organized like gifts for tech lovers, gifts for teachers, gifts for teens...), plus a recipe and a free printable (gift tags, thank you notes, place cards, etc.). Every single day in November, there will be a fresh batch of ideas complete with instructions from sewing and crafty bloggers all around the globe. It's a treasure that you can refer back to anytime throughout the year.
The great part is that this is the eighth annual series, which means there are seven more years' worth of handmade ideas in their search engine! Here is last year's list to get you started.
The series starts November 1, this Saturday. I'll be checking every day. It's so worth it for inspiration and tutorials. You can start now and have a whole basketful of handmade gifts ready once the holidays are here! I don't recommend trying to make a dozen gifts starting on December 20. You'll go crazy.
If you don't have the time or inclination to make gifts this year, support handmade artisans who have been planning for this season since June. You can start with this year's Cornucopia sale where I will have a booth next weekend, Nov 7-8 in Portsmouth!!
Do your children ever complain about the size tag inside the neckline of their clothing "feeling scratchy?" If you cut it with scissors, it will just feel scratchier, so the best bet is to remove it at the source. There are many ways that the tag may be attached, but if you are dealing with a jersey knit tee or stretchy leotard, here's how you can remove it completely. Have these things handy:
The pesky tag in question. (BTW--this does not look or feel the least bit scratchy to me, but the complaints have been epic.)
Tough to see with the black, but unpick the seam where the tag is attached. 2-3 stitches before and after will suffice. Be careful not to snap any garment threads.
Attach a twin needle, following the instructions in the manual for your sewing machine. Most machines come with twin needles. If not, they can be found for a couple of dollars in any fabric store.
You will need two spools of thread for working with a twin needle. Consult your manual as to where the second spool should be seated. Every machine is different, even from the same manufacturer. If you no longer have your manual, most of them can be found online by starting at your manufacturer's website such as Singer, Janome, Brother, etc. You should be able to download a PDF for free.
Once you have two spools of thread in place, grab both strands and thread your machine as if you only had one thread. In other words, treat the two as one strand and thread your machine normally.
Once you get to the needles, put one thread through the left, one through the right. It does not matter if the strands have gotten a bit twisted while threading the machine. Double check that your presser foot is a zigzag-friendly foot. Turn your hand wheel once to make sure that the double needles will fit easily through the hole in your presser foot. It is very important to do that, otherwise you could be looking at a nasty crash!
Fold the hem back in place as if the tag was still attached. On the outside of the garment (facing up when sewing), stitch the hem closed. Backstitch a few stitches at the beginning and end of your seam to secure the new hem. The double seam will be facing you as you sew. The underside of the garment will be a crazy zigzag stitch that should look a lot like the rest of the seam on your garment. Practice the stitch on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing your garment to see what it will look like.
Congratulations! Your children will think you are a rock star. Or they may not acknowledge what you did whatsoever. At least you don't have to hear any more complaining about an itchy tag.
When you cut fabric for a project, it is important to pay attention to the direction of what's printed on it. A solid fabric like this one has no up/down or right/left other than the weave of the threads of the fabric.
Some fabrics have a print/design that also has no direction. The flowers would look great whether cut up/down or left/right.
But then you have what are called directional prints. There is a right side up to the print. Here's a straightforward example.
Here's something more subtle, but that also has a very distinct up/down to the print on the fabric.
When having fabric cut at the store, it's important to determine the direction of the print on the fabric and then see how the pattern you are using instructs you to cut your pieces. You may need more yardage for the project to ensure you are cutting your pieces with the direction of the print. Many patterns will give you two fabric measurements, one accounting for additional yardage to allow for a directional print (mine do!).
The same rules apply for working with grain-line, something with a nap like corduroy or velvet, and even silk.
Pay attention to what direction your print runs when you look at the bolt before having your yardage cut. It doesn't hurt to bring a measuring tape with you to the fabric store to measure twice, cut once!
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.